On this week’s “TechKnow,” we visited Stanford professor David Lentink and his team of young mechanical engineers, who study the biomechanics of bird flight to engineer better flying robots.
Birds have remarkable flight capabilities. Think of eagles gliding high above and then diving to snatch prey at high speed and with great precision. They make it look effortless, but engineering a drone to do the same is anything but. It’s a major engineering feat to harness the evolutionary talents of a bird and translate them into a robot that can deliver packages to your doorstep.
By understanding how birds have mastered the ability to swoop and dive, Lentink and his team hope to inform microdrone design. They use a high speed camera to capture bird flight at more than 2,000 frames per second and a fluid-mechanics chamber to study how birds interact with the air around them. In the chamber, a laser is projected to illuminate a bird’s flight pattern across oil particles. To protect the bird’s eyes, Stanford students even designed and 3-D printed mini aviator glasses for the bird to wear.
Here’s a behind the scenes look at our shoot at Stanford: