Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Aerodynamic performance of the swift unravelled

26.04.2007
A swift adapts the shape of its wings to the immediate task at hand: folding them back to chase insects, or stretching them out to sleep in flight. Ten Dutch and Swedish scientists, based in Wageningen, Groningen, Delft, Leiden, and Lund, have shown how 'wing morphing' makes swifts such versatile flyers.

Their study, published as cover story in Nature on April 26, proves that swifts can improve flight performance by up to three-fold, numbers that make 'wing morphing' the next big thing in aircraft engineering.

Swifts spend almost their entire life in the air. During flight, they continually change the shape of their wings from spread wide to swept back. When they fly slowly and straight on, extended wings carry swifts 1.5 times farther and keep them airborne twice as long. To fly fast, swifts need to sweep back their wings to gain a similar advantage.

Economic turns

During the summer, we can observe swifts circling above town squares, where they catch up to 20.000 insects a day. Swift can triple their efficiency by turning with their wings stretched out. When chasing rivals and flying insects, swifts also want to make their turns fast and tight. However, in fast and diving turns, the load on the wings easily reaches more than four times the swift's body weight. So in extreme turns, swifts need to sweep back their wings or else risk breaking them.

Night's rest

Swifts do not land to roost, but spend the night at 1.5 km above the ground. To measure their flight speed, Swedish scientists used radar. They found that swifts let the air blow past their wings at 8 to 10 m/s (29-36 km/h). At these air speeds, swift wings deliver maximum flight efficiency. For the swift that means more gliding and less flapping to maintain altitude.

The scientists figured all this out when they measured just how much lift and drag a swift wing generates. The wings were tested to their limit in a windtunnel at speeds of up to 108 km/h (30 metres per second).Scientists compared extended and swept wings, and learnt that flying slowly with extended wings gives swifts maximum flight efficiency. But swept wings deliver a better aerodynamic performance for flying fast and straight. Swept wings are also better for fast and tight turns; but this time swept wings are better because they do not break as easily as extended wings.

Airplanes

Morphing wings are the latest trend in aviation. The best wing shape to save fuel costs depends on flight speed. In 2003, birds inspired NASA to design a revolutionary "morphing wing" aircraft. Also so-called micro-aircraft, which are the size of a bird, begin to exploit the benefits of varying wing shape. These tiny flyers, equipped with cameras and sensors to assist in surveillance and espionage, imitate faithfully the flight behaviour and appearance of birds. In an ongoing project, students at Delft University cooperate with scientist at Wageningen, to make such a small airplane fly like a swift.

The swifts for this study had been brought in dead or dying to seven Dutch bird sanctuaries. Swifts, when forced to land on the ground, cannot take off by themselves and will starve unless a kind and timely passer-by throws them in the air. Swifts are the most aerial of birds. They migrate annually from South Africa to Europe. Over their lifetime, swifts cover 4.5 million kilometres, a distance equal to six round trips to the moon or 100 times around the Earth. At day, swifts hunt insects; at night they 'roost' in flight. Swifts even mate in the air and land only lay their eggs, in nests tucked away into crevices of walls and cliffs. Swifts are not related to swallows. They are family of another well-known aerial acrobat, the hummingbird.

Jac Niessen | alfa
Further information:
http://www.wur.nl

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Study relating to materials testing Detecting damages in non-magnetic steel through magnetism
23.07.2018 | Technische Universität Kaiserslautern

nachricht Innovative genetic tests for children with developmental disorders and epilepsy
11.07.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Color effects from transparent 3D-printed nanostructures

New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D-print templates for user-given colors
Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference

Most of the objects we see are colored by pigments, but using pigments has disadvantages: such colors can fade, industrial pigments are often toxic, and...

Im Focus: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

Im Focus: The “TRiC” to folding actin

Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.

Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

LaserForum 2018 deals with 3D production of components

17.08.2018 | Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Smallest transistor worldwide switches current with a single atom in solid electrolyte

17.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Robots as Tools and Partners in Rehabilitation

17.08.2018 | Information Technology

Climate Impact Research in Hannover: Small Plants against Large Waves

17.08.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>