Engineers at UC San Diego are studying the flight and movement of various types of birds to design a prototype unmanned aerial vehicle, with improved maneuverability. UAVs are often used for surveillance of a fixed target in military and civilian applications. In order to observe a stationary target, a fixed wing UAV must remain airborne over the object, thus expending energy for propulsion and reducing operational time.
A fixed wing aircraft capable of spot landing on a perch would be an ideal solution capable of efficient cruising and versatile landing for longer surveillance missions. Because the target is nearby, simple sensors could be used onboard the perched aircraft.The problem of perching has already been solved by nature. Birds routinely land on small surfaces, using wing morphing and flapping techniques.Mechanical and aerospace engineering professor Tom Bewley and graduate student Kim Wright, analyzed in slow motion several videos of birds landing to generate a working hypotheses for how wing morphing and flapping can be used for spot landing, Live Science reported."One of the key behaviors observed in the birds was their use of wing sweep for pitch control in both forward flight and stalled landing approaches," Kim said."Birds can move their wings in a myriad of ways, providing a level of aerodynamic control that is unmatched by UAVs," she added.