Dec 7, 2016 | By Tess

This tiny bird wearing 3D printed safety goggles might just be the cutest thing I’ve seen all week. If you were wondering, the adorable accessory isn’t the latest in avian fashion, but was rather used as a tool during a recent science experiment, the results of which have challenged existing models for animal flight.

A team of researchers from Stanford University has been exploring the motion of animal flight in order to compare it to existing computer models of bird flight. The goal of the research study, which was recently published in Bioinspiration and Biomimetics, was to better understand how birds support themselves while in flight and how they move through air so that one day more efficient flying robots can be created.

As part of the research, the scientists trained a parrotlet named Obi to fly through a space filled with non-toxic, micron-sized aerosol particles. On their own, the moving particles are indiscernible to the naked eye, so a laser sheet was installed to illuminate the airborne particles. The idea of the experiment was to have Obi fly through the space in order to observe and record how the particles moved around the flying bird. Of course, flying through lasers is no simple feat, so the researchers devised some safety equipment to protect Obi’s eyes from the powerful laser sheet.

As assistant professor David Lentink explained, “We would never walk through a laser sheet without any protection, so we really had to think about how we can protect our bird.” Evidently, the answer was bird safety glasses. The teeny goggles were carefully (and we imagine lovingly) crafted from a number of materials, including specially designed 3D printed sockets, veterinary tape, and lenses from human safety goggles. Eric Gutierrez, a former graduate student, was responsible for creating the 3D printed safety goggles for Obi, which were fitted onto his tiny head with a head strap and chin strap.

Interestingly, the results of the experiment did prove that current models of birds in flight are somewhat inaccurate and could still be improved upon. This, in turn, means that there is still very much to do before flying robots are fully optimized. “Many people look at the results in the animal flight literature for understanding how robotic wings could be designed better,” explained Lentink. “Now, we’ve shown that the equations that people have used are not as reliable as the community hoped they were. We need new studies, new methods to really inform this design process much more reliably.”

With the apparent success of the laser sheet method, perhaps we will be seeing more birds wearing tiny 3D printed goggles, or maybe even some bats! Check out the video below for more:

 

 

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I.AM.Magic wrote at 12/8/2016 8:13:02 AM:

Good job, we are far from the days of flying canaries in mines.



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