There's always something freaky going on in the realm of science, and right now, that so happens to be the creation of zombie bird drones that can be used to spy on people and tons of other things.
During a presentation of the project at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics' SciTech 2023 Forum, it was shown how dead birds can now be converted into drones with flapping wings, with the final appearance and behavior of these drones mimicking the movements of real birds.
These drones can therefore be classified as ornithopters — aircrafts that achieve flight by flapping their wings — and their overall design can be considered as a conceptual avenue for spy-drone creation that relies less on artificial materials, and instead uses the taxidermied bodies of dead birds as a basis.
It all definitely sounds more than a little crazy, but the team is confident that using such methods to create drones will end up proving advantageous in helping experts study wildlife, as they can blend in better in natural environments.
Going even further, such a technology could be used in military applications to help troops spy on their enemies in a way that's subtler than usual, although there are still a few kinks to be ironed out before any of the above can happen.
For instance, the current prototypes are still pretty loud, while tests have also proven that these drones are not the most efficient flyers from an aerodynamic standpoint.
But the team has already looked at real flight examples of birds, and has pinpointed a number of factors that could help bring artificial flight (like in drones) closer to the efficiency of that displayed by actual birds.
One example has to do with flight formation, where the team observed that while using the same V-formation as migratory birds, drones can reduce their energy consumption by up to 70 percent.
Also, the team has found that replacing some gear components in these bird-like drones to mimic actual birds can lead to reduced noise and longer overall lifespans.
"This research is ongoing, and we are always thinking about the next 100 years," said Mostafa Hassanalian of New Mexico Tech. "So, once we get auto-navigation, airplanes could form a V-formation and mimic migratory birds. If we program them with control algorithms, we can get the same benefits as birds."
Currently, these zombie bird drones still sound as if they belong only within the realm of sci-fi books and movies, but continued progression in such research could very well mean that we could be looking at a flock of pigeons or a murder of crows in the sky and really wonder if they're really alive, or if we're being watched from afar.
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Cover image sourced from Bird Spot and Interesting Engineering.