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Engineers design flying reptile inspired aircraft

Last Updated: Thursday, June 23, 2011 - 15:50

Washington: An international team, led by an Indian-origin scientist, has taken inspiration from a flying reptile pterosaurs’ head crest to design an aircraft.

Brian Roberts and Rick Lind from the University of Florida, and Sankar Chatterjee from Texas Tech University thought there might be something to those crests besides looking good for a mate.

The researchers designed an aircraft with the vertical tail moved to the front, like a pterosaur``s crest. Giving aircraft a crest increased its turning ratio by 14 pc.

Aircraft that need to maneuver in tight spaces or around obstacles could benefit from crests.

“The applications of a pterosaur-inspired design cover the spectrum of uses already being adopted for UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles], such as search and rescue, damage assessment, surveillance, drug interdiction, border security, and communication,” the Discovery News quoted Lind as saying in an interview with

“Essentially, the technology has potential benefits for aircraft that need to increase maneuverability and fly among obstacles. The pterosaurs had a vast range in wingspan and crest size, so a correspondingly large range of aircraft may benefit from the biological-inspired design,” explained Lind.

“The pterosaur project is part of a large on-going effort into biological-inspired design at the University of Florida,” added Lind.

One improvement the researchers made to the pterosaur design was to allow the crest to move from front to back on the aircraft. Having a vertical crest may increase manoeuvrability, but it decreases stability. By allowing the crest to slide back and become a vertical tail, as well as rotate 45 degrees, improved the aircraft’s aerodynamics.

The research is published in a recent issue of Bio inspiration and Biomimetics.


First Published: Thursday, June 23, 2011 - 15:50

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