Washington: A recent study on how birds can fly so quickly and accurately through dense forests has opened a new avenue for developments in robotics and auto-pilots.
Researchers from Harvard University conducted an experiment wherein, they trained pigeons to fly through an artificial forest with a tiny camera attached to their heads, giving a birds-eye view.
It emerged that pigeons with >300-degree panoramic vision were well suited for this task because the wrap-round vision allows them to assess obstacles on either side.
Furthermore, they can also stabilise their vision and switch rapidly between views using a small rapid movement of the head called ‘head saccade.’
The methods used by pigeons to navigate through difficult environments could be used as a model for autopilot technology, believe the researchers.
“Attaching the camera to the bird as well as filming them from either side means we can reconstruct both what the bird sees and how it moves,” said Dr. Huai-Ti Lin, lead researcher and a remote control airplane pilot.
The researchers also found that the birds tend to choose the straightest route through the forests, a skill that would be important for auto-piloted machines.
“This is a very efficient way of getting through the forest, because the birds have to do less turns and therefore use less energy but also because they reach the other side quicker,” Dr Lin added.
When using a robot or an unmanned aircraft, it would be invaluable to simply provide it with the coordinates of the destination without giving the detailed information of the possible obstacles on the way, the study concluded.
“If we could develop the technology to follow the same methods as birds we could let the robot get on with it without giving it any more input,” according to Dr. Lin.
The study has been presented at the Society for Experimental Biology annual.