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Birds Give a Lesson to Plane Designers

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the it's-a-bird-it's-a-plane-no-really dept.

Science 250

Roland Piquepaille points out a news release from the University of Michigan where researchers are looking to birds and bats for insights into aerospace engineering. Wei Shyy and his colleagues are learning from solutions developed by nature and applying them to the technology of flight. A presentation on this topic was also given at the 2005 TED conference. From the news release: "The roll rate of the aerobatic A-4 Skyhawk plane is about 720 degrees per second. The roll rate of a barn swallow exceeds 5,000 degrees per second. Select military aircraft can withstand gravitational forces of 8-10 G. Many birds routinely experience positive G-forces greater than 10 G and up to 14 G. Flapping flight is inherently unsteady, but that's why it works so well. Birds, bats and insects fly in a messy environment full of gusts traveling at speeds similar to their own. Yet they can react almost instantaneously and adapt with their flexible wings."

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It's the people, not the planes. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22344908)

Current aircraft performance is limited by what the occupants can survive. Try to roll a human at 5,000 degrees per second and things would get messy.

Re:It's the people, not the planes. (5, Funny)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22344942)

Tell me about it. My brother suffered an awful tilt-a-whirl experience at an amusement park, and they had to clean him up what was left with tortilla chips. Not a pretty sight.

Re:It's the people, not the planes. (2, Interesting)

mrxak (727974) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345468)

Well hey, let's use the same evolutionary principles that let birds fly so well. Design aircraft with random variables and see which ones can fly. The ones that can fly, keep randomizing stuff and see if they get better.

Re:It's the people, not the planes. (1)

jessiej (1019654) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345578)

That would take millions of years though.

Re:It's the people, not the planes. (2, Funny)

lostguru (987112) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345632)

nah if you could automate the process, say with a 3d printer and some fancy robotics you could probably get that down to only 10 or 20 thousand years

Re:It's the people, not the planes. (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345790)

why build anything at all?
should be doable with computing powerr alone...

Re:It's the people, not the planes. (1)

arminw (717974) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345816)

....That would take millions of years though......

That is an assumption (belief). We don't know that. If something is truly random, it is possible to get all variables right in the first try. All the random variables could be just so, to get a fantastically performing airplane.

Re:It's the people, not the planes. (4, Insightful)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345046)

The planes they are talking about have "wingspans smaller than a deck of playing cards". You won't fit too many people on that.

This is something people at universities mess about all the time. I've seen programs about something like this on the science channel or whatever years ago. They had little artificial insects or small birds with cameras on them flying around. Wasn't there news story about them being used by the police to film some demonstrations last year? For reasons known only to himself, Roland decided to pick this particular random news release and make it sound as if its some important new breakthrough when its nothing of the sort.

Re:It's the people, not the planes. (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345092)

For reasons known only to himself, Roland decided to pick this particular random news release and make it sound as if its some important new breakthrough when its nothing of the sort.
There's a reason we have the "ohnoitsroland" metatag. It's par for the course for his astute following of "technology trends."

Pissed Frost (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22344910)

Umm. yeah.

Re:Pissed Frost (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22345156)

NIGGERS give a lesson to urban designers.

There's nothing like big fat nigger bitches on welfare who get knocked up every 9-10 months by a different "baby-daddy". That's how you know you're in the city!

Re:Pissed Frost (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22345274)

You can mark that a troll, but what else do you call a big fat black bitch with a shitty attitude? A NIGGER!

I bet nobody has the balls to reply to this.

Re:Pissed Frost (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22345556)

Wrong, bitch!

Missing tag. (5, Insightful)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22344916)

Where's the "ohnoitsroland" meta tag? :) Seriously, though...

The roll rate of the aerobatic A-4 Skyhawk plane is about 720 degrees per second. The roll rate of a barn swallow exceeds 5,000 degrees per second.
I'm no physics buff, but doesn't this have something to do with the greatly diminished surface area and related physical stresses on the swallow? Anyone with some aeronautics background care to help me out?

Re:Missing tag. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22345084)

Its the scale effect. The scale at which the physical laws act is the same. Its not possible to make a human size water strider.

Re:Missing tag. (5, Interesting)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345290)

So does that mean it's impractical to strap a jet engine to a swallow and accelerate it to Mach 2?

Re:Missing tag. (5, Funny)

Scumbumbo (521718) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345530)

It's not so much impractical as pointless. Plus the swallow would not enjoy the experience.

Re:Missing tag. (1)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345630)

Have you asked any swallows?

Re:Missing tag. (5, Funny)

MadKeithV (102058) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345814)

An African or a European swallow?

Re:Missing tag. (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345144)

I'm no physics buff, but doesn't this have something to do with the greatly diminished surface area and related physical stresses on the swallow?
It might also have something to do with those flexible wings mentioned in the summary.

Other than the pilot, the next big limit on a plane is "how much stress can the wings take before ripping off." Flexible/shape changing wings would change that significantly.

Re:Missing tag. (0, Offtopic)

saxoholic (992773) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345166)

i've seen this tag a lot, maybe i missed the memo, but what exactly does the "oh no its roland" tag refer to?

Re:Missing tag. (0, Offtopic)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345228)

Refers to Roland Piquepaille, Slashdot userid rpiquepa [slashdot.org] , infamous author of many Slashdot articles of dubious quality. You can set his stuff to auto-ignore if you like...

Re:Missing tag. (4, Informative)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345256)

***Warning: Hearsay below***

Apparently once upon a time all articles submitted by Roland linked to his blog which linked to the real article (as a way to generate ad revenue, I think). And he continues to take flak for it to this day.
Like I said, this is second-hand from earlier discussions. I was not here when it was happening.

Re:Missing tag. (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345454)

My current account's userid doesn't prove it, but I've been posting to Slashdot since they had less than 50,000 registered users (yeah, I'm old). I can confirm the above as true.

Re:Missing tag. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22345546)

bah, whatever, it was like 2 years ago..

Re:Missing tag. (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345760)

My current account's userid doesn't prove it, but I've been posting to Slashdot since they had less than 50,000 registered users (yeah, I'm old). I can confirm the above as true.
So when did people stop reading the articles? I doubt he gets much ad revenue any more...

Re:Missing tag. (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345774)

I'm sure he's doing all right on ad revenue, considering the fact that ZDNet [zdnet.com] picked him up.

Re:Missing tag. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22345222)

Exactly. Galileo figured out that that 100-foot giants were impossible as no bone or muscles could hold up someone that tall, our flesh just cannot scale up like that.

John C. Lilly pointed out that whales have their heads fused to their body as if they could turn too quickly, the stress would tear apart their brains.

It is not just a matter of surface area, but of mass. The little one can take so much more stress than we biggins.

Re:Missing tag. (2, Insightful)

Swampash (1131503) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345232)

Mass of an A4 Skyhawk at takeoff: ~11,000 kg
Mass of a sparrow at takeoff: ~10g

The fact that one maneuvers faster than the other, it's just... inexplicable.

Re:Missing tag. (2, Insightful)

sssssss27 (1117705) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345372)

European or African Swallow?

Re:Missing tag. (4, Funny)

flyingsquid (813711) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345534)

African or European A4 Skyhawk?

Re:Missing tag. (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345548)

Apparently the "ohnoitsroland" tag on this article has now been replaced with "ohshititsroland". If that's not funny, I don't know what is. I spewed coffee when I read it.

laden or unladen? (5, Funny)

ruggerboy (553525) | more than 6 years ago | (#22344920)

a barn swallow, yes, but an African swallow...

Re:laden or unladen? (5, Funny)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22344956)

For those in need, here's the official reference [style.org] on "Estimating the Airspeed Velocity of an Unladen Swallow". Enjoy.

Re:laden or unladen? (1)

RuBLed (995686) | more than 6 years ago | (#22344986)

How do you know so much about swallows?

Re:laden or unladen? (5, Funny)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345000)

The little search engine that could told me. That and a few ex-girlfriends who had some experience with swallows, but that's all over now that I'm married.

Re:laden or unladen? (2, Funny)

laejoh (648921) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345604)

Can you believe I have no idea what you're talking about?

Re:laden or unladen? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22345410)

You have to know these things when you're king, you know.

Just now? (2, Insightful)

katterjohn (726348) | more than 6 years ago | (#22344922)

Why haven't they been looking at this all along?

In other news... (4, Funny)

djupedal (584558) | more than 6 years ago | (#22344928)

Submarine designers look to fish for ideas on how to move in water.

Re:In other news... (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22344978)

As a member of the U.S. Navy's submarine force, I can inform you with great assurance that looking to fish for submarine design would be a very bad idea for a great many reasons.

In other news...Taste like chicken. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22345176)

Well, one would be that a submarine made out of meat wouldn't taste too good.

Re:In other news... (1)

RuBLed (995686) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345258)

yes.. because if the other superpowers based their submarine design on whales.. US Navy's screwed...

Re:In other news... (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345316)

What other naval superpowers would those be? I'd also appreciate some technical references on (1) precisely why whales would make a good model for submarine design, (2) how such designs would exceed current technology in performance and acoustic properties, and (3) some background credentials establishing your authority on the subject.

Re:In other news... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22345494)

Since when did you need a reference to make baseless statements, opinions and general rantings on Slashdot?
Where's your references?
You must be new here

Hey, Nemo... (1)

djupedal (584558) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345442)

[sarcasm] laugh...it was a joke [/sarcasm]

Looking to nature for ideas isn't exactly a lightbulb moment normally associated with professionals. 5th graders, maybe. Thus your comment, right?

Sub designers, aircraft...cars...chairs...these guys/gals are supposed to have studied things like fish, birds, trees and insects for reasons why, and why not, long before they were hired to actually build things.

Re:Hey, Nemo... (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345526)

Sorry about my quickdraw response... I'm a little testy at this hour. Actually, submariners are frequently testy :). I should have viewed you original post in a humorous context. Thanks!

While we're at it... (1)

kylehase (982334) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345438)

Automobile manufacturers look to humans on ideas to make cars move on land...

roll rates make people hurl (1)

peektwice (726616) | more than 6 years ago | (#22344930)

Obviously, we're talking about a non-sustained roll rate of 720 degrees per second, or we'd have to consider an unmanned aircraft. If they do get anywhere close to the barn swallow's (African or European?) 5000 degrees per second, then it's definitely unmanned.

Re:roll rates make people hurl (2, Interesting)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345026)

The Navy is very interested in unmanned aircraft that can do extremely high speed maneuvers. Further development in this field will lead not only to fewer pilot deaths, but oddly enough also to reduced defense spending. It takes an unbelievable amount of money to train Naval aviators and provide a steady supply of capable, piloted aircraft.

Re:roll rates make people hurl (1)

goatpunch (668594) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345136)

Great, now they can be remote controlled by some guy on his couch with a 360 controller, instead of needing an operator with any skill or experience!

Re:roll rates make people hurl (1)

nunyabid (1126027) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345186)

"Further development in this field will lead not only to fewer pilot deaths, but oddly enough also to reduced defense spending." but probably increased "collateral damage"-- but that's ok-- they're not Merkan.

Re:roll rates make people hurl (1)

rgaginol (950787) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345146)

Maybe they're thinking of making next generation guided bombs which fly like birds. And then we can finally use spinoff technology to create quidditch.

Arrakis (4, Funny)

milsoRgen (1016505) | more than 6 years ago | (#22344932)

So does this mean we will soon of ornithopters to defend our spice from the evil Harkonnen?

Re:Arrakis (2, Insightful)

nunyabid (1126027) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345202)

No. This means that we are the Harkonnen.

Cool idea! (4, Funny)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 6 years ago | (#22344946)

...but wouldn't it be hard to keep your drink on the tray with the pane bouncing up and down constantly?

(...and what if you're allergic to feathers? )

/P

Re:Cool idea! (2, Funny)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345120)

with the pane bouncing up and down constantly

well don't fly on a window then

WHO CARES (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22344960)

GO BUCKEYES!

Birds and insects are puny (4, Insightful)

backslashdot (95548) | more than 6 years ago | (#22344962)

I hate commenting on another annoying stupid Roland article.

Birds and insects have very low mass. As mass increases components have deal with more stress etc.

Post another annoying stupid Roland article when birds flying at high speeds weigh as much as an aircraft (or even a human) and then we'll see how they handle things.

Btw, I could have sworn i saw the "ohnoitsroland" tag and then it disappeared .. what's up with that?

Re:Birds and insects are puny (1)

cbc1920 (730236) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345012)

Read the article, not the commentary- he is working on 1-3" wings for ultra-light UAVs. Just imagine a mechanical hummingbird. The part of the article comparing them to manned jets is just PR fluff.

Re:Birds and insects are puny (2, Insightful)

Psychotria (953670) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345396)

I don't know much about Roland. But, from the article:

Shyy is the Clarence L. "Kelly" Johnson Collegiate Professor of Aerospace Engineering. Other authors of the book, "Aerodynamics of Low Reynolds Number Flyers" are: U-M research scientists Yongsheng Lian, Jian Tang and Dragos Viieru, and Hao Liu, professor of Biomechanical Engineering at Chiba University in Japan. Other collaborators on this research include professors Luis Bernal, Carlos Cesnik and Peretz Friedmann of the University of Michigan; Hao Liu of Chiba University in Japan; Peter Ifju, Rick Lind and Larry Ukeiley of University of Florida, and Sean Humbert of University of Maryland.

If you're smarter than these people, perhaps you should apply for a job.

Re:Birds and insects are puny (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345542)

If you're including Roland in that list of smart people, you haven't been hanging around Slashdot that long, and definitely don't know Roland.

Re:Birds and insects are puny (2, Insightful)

Jeppe Salvesen (101622) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345856)

I've been hanging around Slashdot for a looong time. 10 years? But just not often enough to know who Roland is.

Anyhow, comment on the story and not the submitter. Or maybe just shut the hell up? If people stop complaining about shitty stories, then the shitty stories will no longer be published since it will no longer generate the clicks used to complain about the shitty story!

Oh my god.... (1)

zoltamatron (841204) | more than 6 years ago | (#22344964)

Smaller things turn faster!! What a concept.....I'll bet if they studied flies they would find out that they turn even FASTER!!

Oh my god....Dremel Porn. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22345094)

"Smaller things turn faster!! "

Geeks must get some great RPMs with their "tools".

pfftt... (1)

djupedal (584558) | more than 6 years ago | (#22344966)

"...they can react almost instantaneously and adapt with their flexible wings." And they can hatch eggs and eat rocks to aid digestion.

And the problem with making a machine similarly perform is.....?

Didn't Da Vinci study birds? How is this news? Oh, wait...RP needs the ad revenue, of course.

G-forces planes withstand are pilot-limited (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22344974)

The fact that the current crop of planes is limited to about 8-10 Gs is because that's all the pilots can withstand.

There's no special in that! (1)

ramprasadb (1196083) | more than 6 years ago | (#22344980)

Well, if one want to survive in the nature needs to learn lessons, get experienced and live because other factors do affect one's living. So, there is no special thing in birds giving lessons to plane designers!

Taken us this long? (3, Insightful)

AlphaDrake (1104357) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345002)

Perhaps they can roll that fast, and take that many G's, because that's what they have done for thousands (if not millions?) of years. Their bodies have adapted to it, as they do it almost 24/7.



And haven't we already used bernoulli's principle watching birds, and applied that to planes, getting us in the air in the first place. Has it really taken us this long to realize that we can learn how to fly better from watching the things that fly naturally every day?

Re:Taken us this long? (1)

jimmux (1096839) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345108)

I didn't RTFA, but perhaps these ideas are more applicable to UAVs [wikipedia.org] . After all, with improvements to technology they may become much smaller, and therefore subject to design constraints more like those of flying animals than those of contemporary aircraft.

Did the article mention UAVs?

(Yes, I am that lazy.)

Re:Taken us this long? (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345324)

From TFA:

Shyy's current focus is on the aerodynamics of flexible wings related to micro air vehicles with wingspans between 1 and 3 inches.
So, yeah. Congrats on refraining from making clueless comments about how pilots don't do so hot in such maneuvers (what pilots?) or how these kinds of maneuvers are possibly because swallows are smaller than airplanes (not the kind this article is about), unlike other people who clearly didn't read the article either, but feel compelled to explain to us what's wrong with it without having even read it.

Re:Taken us this long? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22345704)

OH! So where were you all this time to provide that little (and I mean little) bit of insight! How did you keep it bottled up for so long, knowing as you did, what you did? In truth Sparky, unstable aircraft have been built (30+ years ago) studying how to turn more quickly. The aircraft must be fly by wire, as its inherently unstable, and the pilot gives suggestions to the computer, which flies the plane. Also, ever notice how new submarines look like dolphins? Ever notice how the front (nose to wings) of a B1 Bomber looks like a goose? Yes Sparky, your little (and I mean little) tidbit of advice has been the watchword for a long time. Thanks again Sparky, for being bold and passing on your little (and I mean little) bit of insight.

Well birds have alot less moment of inertia... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22345004)

I = (sum) m r^2

E = (1/2) I omega^2

It takes alot more energy to get a plane into a roll with angular velocity omega than a bird, because I is so much larger. Also, the centrifugal force dF = dm omega^2 r on the outer parts of the bird's wings and body is alot less because r never gets to be very large. Whereas the plane has to have the tensile strength to withstand this force at its outermost points with large r, and this places an upper limit on omega.

Mod parent up (1)

Sepiraph (1162995) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345288)

The above comment is actually insightful as it takes in the energy consideration in relation to the size into the equation.

Deceiving comment about G limits (1)

427_ci_505 (1009677) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345036)

Select military aircraft can withstand gravitational forces of 8-10 G. Many birds routinely experience positive G-forces greater than 10 G and up to 14 G.

So? The Vympel R77 Air-Air Missile has a 12G limit, because it is unmanned. Humans don't really deal too well with 9+G (blackout).

Swallows (4, Funny)

tsotha (720379) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345038)

The roll rate of a barn swallow exceeds 5,000 degrees per second.
Is that, uh, African or European?

Re:Swallows (1)

i_liek_turtles (1110703) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345104)

Obviously African: this plane does migrate! Don't be silly!

PILOTS are limited to 8-10 G's not the planes. (1)

RandomU (1185807) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345056)

We can make planes capable of doing 14 Gs but it doesn't make any sense if the pilot blacks out and crashes at 10Gs the limit for most humans. Random U

Re:PILOTS are limited to 8-10 G's not the planes. (1)

RetroRichie (259581) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345160)

Pilots are SO 20th century.

Re:PILOTS are limited to 8-10 G's not the planes. (4, Insightful)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345196)

In addition, a bird's head is inline with its body, while pilots sit up and require g-suits to force blood back up into their heads. I wonder what forces the pilots could withstand if they piloted in a prone position, though I can't imagine that being very comfortable.

Re:PILOTS are limited to 8-10 G's not the planes. (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345718)

the seat of a fighter jet today is very reclined...

But if imitation is the way to go... (0, Offtopic)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345072)

...why do so many Trekkies dress like Captain Kirk, but they never get lucky with all the beautiful alien girls?

Re:But if imitation is the way to go... (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345728)

alien as in from another nation or alien as in from another planet?

Coconut Migration (3, Funny)

flydude18 (839328) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345086)

They do make a point about the roll rate, but a Skyhawk is much more useful for migrating coconuts. An African swallow could carry one coconut at most, but they are non-migratory, so it is uncertain what sort of range they would have. European swallows are generally thought to be unable to carry even one coconut, unless two of them carried it together, but that increases the risk of mid-air collisions.

A Skyhawk, on the other hand, could carry a large number of coconuts. However, unlike with the swallows (where the main issue is not the grip but the weight ratios), the Skyhawk would be limited by the number of coconuts that could be attached. The Skyhawk is an attack aircraft with a payload of close to 10,000 lbs, which would make for a lot of coconuts. But, the only reasonable place to attach large numbers of them without causing aerodynamic interference would be the wing pylons, where the bombs usually go. If they were to fit, these coconut packages could not be much bigger than the bombs. As there are only five hardpoints, I can't imagine there being room for more than about 50 coconuts.

Still, this is a significant improvement over the swallows, and if you had to choose between the two, the Skyhawk would be a much better choice for migrating coconuts into temperate climes. Of course, something like a C-17 would be even better, but those have an even lower roll rate.

huh... (2)

nunyabid (1126027) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345152)

"researchers are looking to birds and bats for insights" I, for one, am shocked.

Moment of inertia, anyone? (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345240)

FTA: "A-4 Skyhawk plane is about 720 degrees per second. The roll rate of a barn swallow exceeds 5,000 degrees per second. "

Duh!

I'll bet that if I made a model of the A-4 the size and weight of a barn swallow, I could make it roll that fast, too.

-jcr

Re:Moment of inertia, anyone? (1)

PrayingWolf (818869) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345382)

That's right, the cube law is against us here: e.g. if the shape remains the same, and the length doubles, the volume will be eight 2^3 times the original!
Also, a bird's wing is self-regenerating: it fixes itself all the time. I'd imagine a flapping wing to be extremely service-heavy.

Oh, no, Roland the Plogger is back (4, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345298)

Sometimes they come back.

Roland is off in bogosity land, as usual. The wingspan of a barn swallow is about 0.3m. The wingspan of an A-4 Skyhawk is 8.1m, which is 27x larger. So, scaled for size, an A-4 Skyhawk actually has about 4x the roll rate of a sparrow.

Historically, aircraft that looked or worked like birds have been spectacularly unsuccessful. Little ornithopter UAVs do work, but the ornithopter concept does not scale up well.

Researchers give a lesson to Birds... (2, Funny)

v(*_*)vvvv (233078) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345354)

on how to recycle old news.

The main reason is that birds are SMALL! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22345356)

If you double the length of an animal (or anything else), the bird's weight increases as the cube (EIGHT times heavier). The strength-to-weight ratio decreases dramatically as it gets bigger. A bigger animal is much less strong per unit of weight.

That is why ants are able to carry so much more than their body weight. THEY ARE TINY!

You can make small buildings out of stone, but once you get to a certain size, stone is not strong enough to support the weight of the building. You need to use other building materials. This is also why the world trade center fell down. Skyscrapers are made of steel-reinforced concrete (because regular concrete isn't strong enough). Due to the fire from the fuel, the reinforcing steel began to soften, leaving only regular concrete (the steel didn't need to melt, only to soften). Once enough of the steel-reinforced concrete softened and lost its strength, it could no longer support the weight, and it collapsed.

Young Researcher Linked Owls to Airplanes (5, Interesting)

TheBlunderbuss (852707) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345426)

I can't remember the source, but several years ago, a researcher in his twenties saw how owls' wingtips point upward on their downstroke. This cuts down on vorticies at the wingtips, making for a more efficient and quiet flight.
Airplane designers then took that idea and applied it to most commercial jets you see today.

This is how the Wright brothers started (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22345538)

The problem of control was a tough one. The solution came from pigeons. While watching pigeons flying, Wilbur and Orville Wright noticed that the birds kept adjusting the positions of their wings. When a bird wanted to turn, it lifted the front edge of one wing while tilting the edge of the other wing down. By reversing the process, the bird could turn the opposite way.

http://pbskids.org/wayback/flight/feature_wright.html [pbskids.org]
This is exactly how the Wright brothers started.

Size?? (2, Insightful)

octogen (540500) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345570)

Isn't an A-4 Skyhawk a bit bigger than a barn swallow?

I mean, what about the maximum load that the material can withstand?

An RC helicopter like a T-Rex 450 may run its main rotor (diameter of 70 cm == 28 inch) at 3000 rpm. Try that with a blackhawk helicopter, the wingtips of the main rotor blades would go faster than 9000 km/h (about 5600 mph), several times the speed of sound, and certainly more than the material could ever withstand...

A4 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22345574)

"The roll rate of the aerobatic A-4 Skyhawk plane is about 720 degrees per second. The roll rate of a barn swallow exceeds 5,000 degrees per second. "

But can the swallow do those rolls while travelling straight up at 500mph?

Anyway the Skyhawk is a fairly old aircraft, designed in the 50's. Although they were a manouverable plane in the Vietnam war, that didn't stop them from being shot down and their pilots captured (as we will hear a lot about between now and the 1st tuesday in november...)

Couldn't they have used a modern, computer aided designed plane for a comparison?

bad idea (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345586)

You know how many people would throw up if they did make a 100% sucessful winged aircraft? Ignoring how messed up takeoff would be, current aircraft handle turbulence by cutting through it and minmizing it through the smallest possible air resistance and a small wing area compared to a bird. Birds just slow down and speed up and in strong gusts and float around with the wing instead of fighting it. They even go from coasting along to a dead stop in a sudden wind gust by putting their wings up and absorbing the backwards force. All that bobbing up and down and moving around and speed changes would be awful! People would be throwing up left and right! I can see it now..."Bat Airlines: For your next vacation, take the plane ride from hell...through hell!" And they could even paint on one wing "from hell" and "through hell" on the other wing. Genius! I should patent that and sit on it so nobody tries it.

More importantly... (1)

T-Bucket (823202) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345620)

Forget making the planes act more like swallows, what they really need to work on is getting the flight attendants to swallow...

You can learn a lot ... (1)

garphik (996984) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345668)

Just by observation,

if you have curiosity of course.

A question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22345708)

Will these new planes have large talons?

Ohhh here we go again... (5, Interesting)

FlyingGuy (989135) | more than 6 years ago | (#22345768)

This is really amusing, but least I laugh to hard allow me to enlighten some...

The mighty Peregrine Falcon, THE fastest animal in the skies, bar none, have been clocked in dives exceeding 200mph, with radar. Now that is pretty damn fast for anything made of bone, muscle and sinew and covered in something as delicate as feathers. But one has to examine the actions of the animal when it accomplishes these seemingly impossible feats of speed.

Fist of all, much like the famous ( or infamous depending on your POV, especially if you were a pilot in the early very underpowered versions ) F-14 Tomcat Naval Jet Fighter, it makes maximum use of variable wing geometry. When a Peregrine stoops ( the technical term for diving from altitude in the bird world ) its 39 to 43 inch wings fold in very tightly making the outline of the bird look pretty like a "W", leaving just enough airfoil hanging out to effect control. This reduces stress on the main wing spar ( their bones and joints ) by a huge margin thus allowing it to accomplish this feat without tearing its wings off.

Now I don't have an actual measurement of their wing span in a full speed stoop, but from photo's I estimate that it reduces wing span by a good 75% or more. The area of the wing that would comprise the distance between a human elbow and the tips of our fingers goes parallel to the body and the upper wing ( the area from a human shoulder to the elbow ) then are pulled in close to the head, further reducing wing span.

Transition from this "clean" configuration to a "Dirty" configuration after either missing or hitting its prey can be quite rapid and causes the bird to bleed off speed at a very high rate. A Falcon cannot make a "pylon" ( a turn in an airplane in which one rolls the airplane from straight and level flight by nearly 90 degrees and then applies maximum UP elevator ) turn, the force on the wings would quickly overcome the bone, tendon, muscle and joint strength. Now this is not to say the are not maneuverable in a stoop but as you would surmise their maneuverability is greatly reduced at speed. Another very interesting feature of the bird is its nostrils. Small bony tubercles in a falcon's nostrils guide the air and shock wave to prevent over pressuring the lungs and giving the bird the ability to breath while diving.

so while looking to nature can be inspiring for aeronautical design there are very real limitations in duplicating the ability of a bird with mechanical devices. Another instance would be the original Wright Flyer. It did not have ailerons, it used what is called "Wing warping" which is what birds do, but it was found to be quite impractical since the amount of wing warping required to provide the same effectiveness as a bird required that the wings be so flexible to the point of losing to much strength. Now birds do Wing warping one better as they can not only warp their wings but they can dip a wing, decrease span, warp, move their tail in all axes, and do this all at the same time, providing maneuverability that airplane designers can only dream of.

On whales and submarines. If it were not for the requirement that we a) Keep the water out of the people tank and b) be able to stay submerged for months on end, and c) carry weapons that are stand-off capable, perhaps a Blue Whale would be a decent model to study in submarine development, but not as much as one would think. One must remember that a whale of any kind is a completely articulated bit of construction. It can bend and twist in any direction thus altering its hydrodynamic profile at will. Careful study of its means of propulsion reveals that it is a "whole body" movement, not simply a movement of the flukes in an up and down motion. It was also discovered some time ago that whales overcome friction in the water by way of their blubber. Careful examination revealed that hydrodynamic pressure is relieved by the blubber and skin actualy undulating in concert with the pressure waves to facilitate their movement down the length of the animals body, therefor reducing overall drag and increasing efficiency of movement. This was explored in detail with several types of coatings, but the right combination of materials could not be put together to provide the requisite strength.

I think the conclusion here is, yes study nature in all its wonder and efficiency, and then apply it where you can to mechanical devices while keeping in mind that we cannot duplicate the supremely complex interplay of the materials that all creatures are made of, and the brain which controls them.

I will leave you with an example to ponder next time you begin to wonder just how magnificent is the organic machine that we are. Consider the simple act of throwing a baseball over home plate. You know what the target is, you know its proximal distance and size. Your arm moves back, and then begins to move forward, the fingers grip the ball just so, and in the arc of your arm, suddenly the fingers release to ball to send it on its way to the target. If you are just an average Joe the ball gets very close to the target, perhaps even hitting it. The ball does not travel particularly fast, but it hits the target. Now stop and think of the code you would have to write to accomplish that same task, using a mechanical device, the number of sensor inputs, the speed regulation, the distance measuring, all the calculations required to get a little ball to be thrown just like a human would to hit a simple target that is what, 60 feet away?

Yes I am a pilot, I am also a former Submariner.

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