Avian aerodynamics - efficient flight of large birds


Below is "Leslie" the condor, at Taronga Zoo. Taronga partnered with FLIP researchers in 2013 to allow us to take detailed footage from multiple angles using high speed cameras, to examine the role of the tail in stability and control, as well as the influence of the wing tip feathers. Now the project continues using computer modelling to investigate the aerodynamics in more detail.

A combination of laser scanning (below, of an Australian pelican wing) and other wing measurements allow us to make detailed models of bird wing geometries - validation against real-world measurements using accelerometers and on-bird cameras couple with wind tunnel testing to validate simulation work for detailed avian aerodynamics studies.

Why condors and pelicans? What's so interesting about them?

Andean condors have just about the largest wingspan of any bird, and they are incredibly efficient gliders. This means we can learn a lot about drag minimization and clever aerodynamic features that perhaps might inform novel designs for aircraft. And pelicans have evolved to take advantage of the ground effect - enhanced lift when flying very close to the water. Ground effect has been a big area of research in FLIP in the past, albeit for different speeds and other applications - however, any excuse to find out a little bit more about nature while doing our engineering research! After all, birds have had just a little bit of a head start on aerodynamic design...

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