JULY 9, 2019
While pilots rely on radio signals, advanced computations and tools to keep them on course during strong crosswinds, birds can naturally navigate these demanding conditions—and do so in environments with little visibility. To understand how they accomplish this feat, researchers in the lab of David Lentink, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Stanford University, studied lovebirds flying in a crosswind tunnel which features customizable wind and light settings.
This research, published July 9 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could inspire more robust and computationally efficient visual control algorithms for autonomous aerial robots.
This is the first study of how birds orient their bodies, necks and heads to fly through extreme 45-degree crosswinds over short ranges—both in bright visual environments and in dark, cave-like environments, where a faint point of light is the only visual beacon. To the researchers' surprise, the lovebirds navigated all environments equally well.