Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Could gulls' wings inspire smarter airplane design?

03.01.2019

Flexing a single elbow joint enables gulls to adapt their wing shape to gusty conditions--a relatively simple mechanism that could inspire improved aircraft design

Flexing a single elbow joint enables gulls to adapt their wing shape to gusty conditions, according to new University of British Columbia (UBC) research--a relatively simple mechanism that could inspire improved aircraft design.


A young glaucous-winged gull (Larus glaucescens) glides over Canada Place in Vancouver, BC, Canada

Credit: Christina Harvey, University of British Columbia, University of Michigan

"While we know birds frequently alter their wing shape, this is the first empirical evidence demonstrating how that wing morphing affects avian stability," says UBC zoologist Douglas Altshuler, senior author on the paper published this week in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

"And in this case, the gull's wing design points to a novel, and fairly simple, avian-inspired joint that may enable aircraft to adjust dynamically to challenging conditions."

As wing speeds and maximum gusts increase, gulls sacrifice stability for maneuverability. By altering the angle of their elbow joint they shift from extended wing configurations to a flexed configuration, pulling the tips of their wings in and back. The flexed shape gives them more control.

To determine the stability of different wing shapes, Altshuler and researcher Christina Harvey prepared gull wings over the anatomical elbow range and measured their performance in a wind tunnel. They also observed gulls in the wild.

"The Wright brothers weren't the first to design an aircraft that was able to fly, but they were the first to successfully control and stabilize a powered aircraft inflight," says Harvey, now with the University of Michigan.

"Likewise, it's not enough for birds to simply produce sufficient lift and thrust. They must also control and stabilize their flight paths to be able to successfully forage and migrate in their natural habitat."

To get a fuller picture of how birds maintain their stability while gliding the researchers want to study a wider range of wind perturbations -- gulls often encounter unsteady, large-scale turbulence while flying in the wake of buildings or convective air flows over open water.

Atmospheric turbulence in these conditions is likely larger than the wind tunnel turbulence the researchers used in the study.

Media Contact

Chris Balma
balma@science.ubc.ca
604-202-5047

 @UBCnews

http://www.ubc.ca 

Chris Balma | EurekAlert!
Further information:
https://science.ubc.ca/node/17551
http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsif.2018.0641

Further reports about: UBC aircraft design airplane gulls natural habitat perturbations wind tunnel

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Programming light on a chip

Research opens doors in photonic quantum information processing, optical signal processing and microwave photonics

Researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have developed a new integrated photonics platform that can...

Im Focus: Physicists uncover new competing state of matter in superconducting material

A team of experimentalists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory and theoreticians at University of Alabama Birmingham discovered a remarkably long-lived new state of matter in an iron pnictide superconductor, which reveals a laser-induced formation of collective behaviors that compete with superconductivity.

"Superconductivity is a strange state of matter, in which the pairing of electrons makes them move faster," said Jigang Wang, Ames Laboratory physicist and...

Im Focus: Tumors backfire on chemotherapy

Some patients with breast cancer receive chemotherapy before the tumor is removed with surgery. This approach, called 'neoadjuvant' therapy, helps to reduce the size of the tumor to facilitate breast-conserving surgery, and can even eradicate the tumor, leaving few or no cancerous cells for the surgeon to remove. In those cases, the patients are very likely to remain cancer-free for life after surgery.

But not all tumors shrink under chemotherapy. If the tumor resists neoadjuvant therapy, there can be a higher risk of developing metastatic disease, meaning...

Im Focus: One of the world's fastest cameras films motion of electrons

Kiel research team examines ultrafast conversion of light energy in a solid

During the conversion of light into electricity, such as in solar cells, a large part of the input light energy is lost. This is due to the behaviour of...

Im Focus: First detection of rain over the ocean by navigation satellites

In order to analyse climate change or provide information about natural hazards, it is important to gather knowledge about the rain. Better knowledge of precipitation and its distribution could, for example, help protect against river flooding. A new approach uses, for the first time, information contained in radar signals from navigation satellites to detect rain over the sea. The technology could help to monitor atmospheric precipitation better than before.

In order to analyse climate change or provide information on natural hazards, for example, it is important for researchers to gather knowledge about rain.

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

How herpesviruses shape the immune system

09.01.2019 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create a wireless, battery-free, biodegradable blood flow sensor

09.01.2019 | Interdisciplinary Research

Research explains public resistance to vaccination

09.01.2019 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>