Wings have even more potential than tails, and the idea of using them as a source of inspiration for all kinds of mobility applications isn’t new. But a recent research project takes it to the next level, by studying the potential benefits for future flapping drones.
Anyone can observe the way that birds fly, but understanding all of the mechanisms and the ability to replicate them is far more complex than we can imagine. For example, birds tend to flap their wings horizontally during slow flights, even though this requires more energy. The reason seems to be that it helps create enough force to stay in the air and keep moving forward.
This is just one of the observations that could potentially be applied for flapping drones as well. A recent study led by the Lund University in Sweden focuses on precisely that – the advantages of wing folding and stroke tilting for flapping flight. And the way to analyze these benefits was to come up with a robotic wing that could undergo different tests.
Natural observation has its obvious limits, while a robotic wing that mimics that of an actual bird can be tested extensively. Christoffer Johansson, a biology researcher at Lund University, and one of the study’s authors, explains that the robotic wing is even more similar to real bird wings, compared to previous robots, but at the same time, it goes beyond that, by being able to flap in unnatural ways as well.
Just like aircraft systems, the robotic wing has undergone wind tunnel testing, to discover and understand the most efficient movement patterns.
What’s interesting about this research is that it doesn’t just benefit drone technology, but natural science as well. These tests can be used to understand the impact of various factors on bird migration – the more we know about birds, the more we can do for them. It’s like a nice way of giving back, after using nature’s intelligence to improve our own technology.