Monday, November 22, 2010

Hummingbirds and Gusty Winds

                                                         Image Courtesy: New Mexico State University.

I have always been fascinated by hummingbirds and wondered how the small birds tackle gusty winds. Now the scientists have come up with an answer. A team of researchers at New Mexico State University, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Technische Universiteit Eindhoven, and Continuum Dynamics Inc. has built a robotic hummingbird wing to discover the answer.

The wings of hummingbirds oscillate in a figure eight pattern to produce lift on both the downstroke and upstroke. This way they achieve that extra lift they need to hover by creating a vortex on the leading edges of their wings. The Scientists explain that the wings create the vortex with a high angle of attack on the downstroke. Then they flip their wings around on the upstroke, so as they shed one vortex, they create another on the other side of the wing, thereby managing to maintain high lift forces. Thus hummingbirds continually readjust their wing angles to maintain high lift forces.

The researchers hope to identify robust algorithms that will allow the creation of stable ornithopters that can operate reliably under real-life conditions for surveillance and other applications.

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