Mental Floss

How a Wind Tunnel Built for Birds Can Help Engineers Make Better Robots

Alvin Ward

Why put a bird in a wind tunnel? Turns out there are plenty of reasons, but researchers at Stanford are putting our flying friends in a wind tunnel in order to make better robots.

In the above video from Stanford, assistant professor of mechanical engineering David Lentink shows off the school's new state-of-the-art bird wind tunnel. Birds are great at flying (we'd even venture to call them the best at it), and engineers can learn a lot by watching them do their thing.

The tunnel is nearly turbulence-free, giving researchers and students an undisturbed look at birds in smooth, natural flight. However, turbulence can be added and adjusted in both speed and location, so the bird's in-flight reactions can be observed and perhaps replicated in the drones of the future. “Students are super excited to figure out what is it that enables birds to fly under these complex conditions," Lentink says, "and how we can translate what we find into developing robots that can be used for delivery, search and rescue, any application in an urban environment where conditions like winds are really unpredictable.”

[h/t The Kids Should See This]

Banner images via YouTube // Stanford.