Date:December 18, 2015
Researchers at the RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia have drawn inspiration from the way kestrels hover above their prey to develop an autonomous fixed-wing micro air vehicle (MAV) that can gain height from convenient updrafts.
The results are published Dec. 18 in the journal Bioinspiration & Biomimetics.
"It's long been known the birds take advantage of upward air currents to save energy when flying" explains Alex Fisher, a lead author of the paper. "This 'boost' of upward-moving air can be found when the wind hits a large obstacle, like a cliff or mountain range, and to a smaller extent close to human-made obstacles like buildings."
"We envisage that in the future, MAVs will be used for many tasks in urban environments, such as delivering packages, performing surveillance, and search and rescue" he continues. "Using these updrafts would make them more efficient and therefore extend their working range."
"If you're familiar with the kestrel, you may know they've got a unique way of hunting -- hovering over a location without flapping their wings. This allows them to keep their heads still with incredible precision, helping them spot prey on the ground. The preciseness at which they hold position led us to thinking we could try this 'wind-hovering' technique on our MAV."
The researchers used a commercially available polystyrene foam sail-plane as their test platform.