New Mexico Tech engineers turn stuffed birds into spy planes

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The aim of the grotesque experiments is to create ornithopters that resemble real birds to the hilt, so they can observe nature or spy on humans at will. New Mexico Tech scientists have developed flying drones utilizing body parts from stuffed dead birds, with potential applications in wildlife monitoring and military reconnaissance.

These ornithopter drones, presented at the AIAA SciTech Forum, imitate the flight process of birds and are constructed from mechanical components, including propellers for thrust. The taxidermy components are combined with the artificial mechanisms to closely simulate the appearance and movement of birds. The researchers have conducted two flight tests with parts from pheasants, pigeons, ravens, and hummingbirds, while using aerodynamic simulators to refine wing flaps.

Though difficult to construct and not very efficient for flight, the drones have practical value for research and development, as they have a non-disturbing appearance in nature and offer opportunities to improve existing ornithopter designs.

The use of pigeon spies is not currently feasible, but research has been conducted to improve the efficiency and performance of drone technology for surveillance purposes. The New Scientist reports that experiments have shown that replacing drone engine parts can reduce noise and increase longevity, and the development of flexible hinge heads can enhance wing flexibility during flight.

The ultimate goal is to create drones with legs, allowing them to sit and observe when needed and conserve battery power. However, current drones are not as agile or efficient as actual birds, and improved wing articulation and reduced noise are necessary for effective spying or surveillance. Despite progress, ornithopters have yet to be developed into fully functional aircraft.


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