Get smart curated videos delivered to your inbox.   SUBSCRIBE
The Kid Should See This

Stanford’s one-of-a-kind wind tunnel for birds & drones

An engineering team at Stanford University, lead by engineering professor David Lentink, built a one-of-a-kind wind tunnel in order to observe, measure, and record the minute details of how birds fly. Their goal: To make aerial robots as stable as the team’s lovebirds, parrotlets, and hummingbirds… and your everyday pigeon.

With the recent boom in drone use, it’s easy to forget that the robots frequently fail in windy conditions. Consider flying a drone down an “urban canyon” like Fifth Avenue in New York City. Turbulence varies wildly from the middle of the “canyon” to alongside the skyscrapers, and obstacles like traffic lights pop up frequently. Now, throw in a few dozen drones fighting for position like the taxis below. It’s a nightmare for drone operators.

“But you look up, and you’ll see a pigeon swoop by casually. It has no problem stabilizing itself, flying around corners, dodging cables and landing on a perch,” Lentink said. “It’s just something we haven’t accomplished in robotics yet. We need to study birds up close so we can figure out what their secret is to flying so stably under such difficult conditions, and apply that to aerial robotic design.”

File under: Biomimicry and robots. Read more at Stanford.edu.

Next: The physics of why birds fly in V-formation and What Happens When You Put a Hummingbird in a Wind Tunnel?

This Webby award-winning video collection exists to help teachers, librarians, and families spark kid wonder and curiosity. TKSST features smarter, more meaningful content than what's usually served up by YouTube's algorithms, and amplifies the creators who make that content.

Curated, kid-friendly, independently-published. Support this mission by becoming a sustaining member today.

🌈 Watch these videos next...

Can squids fly?

Rion Nakaya

Weevils, katydids, an assassin bug, & other insects fly in slow-mo

Rion Nakaya

Paper airplane aerodynamics explained by a world record-setting designer

Rion Nakaya

Can birds teach us how to build better airplanes?

Rion Nakaya

Insects Take Flight: Rare slow-motion footage from the Ant Lab

Rion Nakaya

Tilly the Golden Eagle soars above the Scottish Highlands

Rion Nakaya

Birds gliding through helium bubbles reveal an aerodynamic trick

Rion Nakaya

Bird Flight for Animators

Rion Nakaya

Like Feathered Fighter Jets: Peregrine Falcons

Rion Nakaya