It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no, it’s a drone. The distinction might be hard to make, as future drones will be inspired by swans in order to translate their graceful flight into steady-camera aerial systems.
The future seems set that drones will frequently be seen flying over our heads, and their use is certainly being pushed hard by companies such as Amazon, Google or even Facebook. However, finding that perfect balance that would result in motion-free recordings while the gadget swoops through the air has been a mission undertaken by numerous researchers.
Stanford University graduate Ashley Pete, and professor David Lentink have come up with a concept and an example how nature can be technology’s greatest inspiration.
By observing the flight of Whooper Swans, they are now attempting to simulate their exceptional ability of keeping their long and graceful necks steady while bobbing up and down through the air. In spite of the astounding power of their 8 foot long span of wings, swans have the capability of keeping their head leveled and their vision clear of blur due to motion.
The trick of this remarkable and highly useful skill lies within the 200 muscles and 20 vertebrae of a swan’s body (as comparison, it was noted that humans have a total of 33 vertebrae). This impressive and strong musculoskeletal structure successfully helps the birds in keeping their heads at a steady level while the rest of their body is under the strain of flying.
This notable feat has led researchers into coming up with a similar concept for drones, by finding a way to simulate the complex process of muscle contractions that goes on within a swan’s neck. They developed a mechanism that successfully mimicked the stabilizing ability of the bird into drones.
According to Lentink, the simple mechanism is remarkable and could be incredibly useful to developing future aerial systems that would provide stable recordings, free of the pesky motion impairment or blurry fragments. It’s difficult to keep the camera steady while the device is swooping in all directions through the air.
However, the researchers at Stanford have managed to design a system that remains leveled on the camera’s end while the rest of its body moves, similar to the process that comes natural to swans.
It means that, one day, we might be seeing winged drones over our heads, recording traffic, delivering packages, or who knows what other means that will hopefully be for the ultimate good of mankind and practical use.
Image source: dublinbirding.ie