Researchers in the US are resurrecting dead birds and returning them to the skies as hi-tech drones.

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Researchers at New Mexico Tech are taking a unique approach to wildlife monitoring by turning dead birds into drones.

The project is being led by mechanical engineering professor, Dr Mostafa Hassanalian, who completed two Masters degrees on flapping wing drones developed with artificial material. However, he realized that the efficiency of those models was not comparable to actual birds. As a result, he and his team have been re-engineering dead birds to create drones that closely resemble live ones. The researchers analysed the weight, flapping frequency and angle of the bird when it was alive to create something similar.

Designing the bird drones to study birds in flight.

The goal of the project is to study the formation and flight of flocks of migratory birds. However, the team does not yet have the capability to test the souped-up birds with a real flock in nature. For now, they are running experiments inside a purpose-built drone cage filled with fake mechanical birds. According to Hassanalian, “If we learn how these birds manage energy between themselves, we can apply these learning to the future aviation industry to save more energy and save more fuel.”

Privacy concerns and the future of the project.

While the technology has benefits, the use of drones has raised privacy concerns. Critics worry that drones could be used for military or law enforcement surveillance. Hassanalian is aware of these concerns and has acknowledged that the project could have military applications. However, he emphasizes that their focus is mainly on civil application, specifically to understand wildlife or monitor birds. The project is expected to continue for the next two years, and the next step will involve making the taxidermy bird drone fly for longer, as the current prototype can only fly for 10 to 20 minutes.

SOURCE: Ref. Euronews and Reuters 2016

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