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Aussie researchers get clues on flight safety by observing how birds fly towards each other

Xinhua, September 29, 2016 Adjust font size:

A researcher from Australia's University of Queensland has revealed the simple reason why birds never crash mid-flight and that's because they always veer to the right.

The findings from Professor Mandyam Srinivasan's laboratory at the Queensland Brain Institute said there was much for humans to learn from how birds flew as it also brought in enormous potential for automated anti-crash systems on aircrafts.

"Birds must have been under strong evolutionary pressure to establish basic rules and strategies to minimise the risk of collision in advance," Srinivasan said.

"But no previous studies have ever examined what happens when two birds fly towards each other."

"Our modelling has shown that birds always veer right and sometimes they change their altitude as well, according to some pre-set preference."

"As air traffic becomes increasingly busy, there is a pressing need for robust automatic systems for manned and unmanned aircraft, so there are real lessons to be learned from nature," he said.

In a series of experiments, Srinivasan's team released pairs of Budgerigars from the opposite ends of a tunnel, and filmed them with high-speed video cameras to observe their strategies.

The team recorded 10 birds on 102 flights and not a single collision was observed.

"Another finding was that birds would rarely fly at the same height, and this raises the question of whether individual birds have a specific preference for flying higher or lower," Srinivasan said.

"It might be that their position in the group hierarchy determines their flight height."

"This is a question for further research."

"While we can't say how birds solve the problem of switching to different altitudes, we can propose some simple strategies for autopilot systems and unmanned aerial vehicles to prevent head-on collisions," he said.

Srinivasan's research was conducted in collaboration with Boeing Defence Australia and The Queensland University of Technology.

It was published by scientific journal Plus One on Thursday.

The research was funded by the Australian Research Council as well as Boeing Defence Australia. Endit