Video: Airplane Perches Like a Bird

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Credit: Video courtesy of Russ Tedrake and Rick Cory

It's a bird, it's a plane ... well, it's a bit of both. Researchers have designed an experimental glider that can fly like a plane and land like a bird. In a paper submitted to Bioinspiration & Biomimetics, computer scientists report that they took a page from parakeets and other perching fowl. When the birds zoom in for a landing on, say, a telephone wire, they drop their tails and raise their wings in what's called a high angle of attack. Planes can't do this, because their wings were built for level flight and gradual descents; too high an angle creates severe turbulence that stalls the plane. The researchers developed a control system that quickly compensates for the effects of the turbulence and keeps the aircraft at precisely the correct angle to avoid stalling. The technology, they say, could be used to develop robot craft that recharge themselves by perching on electric power lines.

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