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Stanford wind tunnel for birds could lead to more stable drones

They're kind of the perfect animals to study if we want better flying robots.

Birds can navigate both urban and real jungles with ease even when they're facing moderately turbulent winds. If they could speak, we'd have already asked their secret. But since they can't, the Stanford School of Engineering built one of the most advanced wind tunnels in the world. It's where assistant professor David Lentink study them more closely in order to develop more stable drones. The tunnel has a turbulence generator that simulates different wind speeds and patterns, as well as high-speed cameras that record every flap of the birds' wings as they fly inside.

But that's just the beginning: the researchers also plan to train flocks of birds to fly in the tunnel to determine if the turbulence created by multiple pairs of wings affects each individual's flight. Plus, they're planning to install equipment that can visualize how the birds' muscles and bones move. Lentink believes that the data they'll gather can provide the necessary information to build better flying robots. In the future, he wants to use the wind tunnel to test the bird-like machines he's aiming to build, ones with wings that morph based on the current wind conditions.

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