Stanford researchers decode how birds land with ease
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Stanford researchers decode how birds land with ease

Birds land on a wide
variety of surfaces over the course of their lives. And despite how easy
they make this look, we still don’t know
exactly how they do it. We’re really interested in
learning more about how birds are able to do this so
reliably and robustly and the dynamics and the
forces associated with that. We split up perch
into two hands, and then each half was on a
separate force torque sensor. And that way, we
could actually measure how much force the bird
was exerting with its legs when it was just
landing on the perch and also how much it squeezed
with its feet and its claws. And we could use lots of
different types of surfaces on this instrumented perch. So we used natural surfaces
like tree branches, as well as some engineered surfaces, like
foam and Teflon and sandpaper to really test the extremes
of what the birds could do. We had five high speed cameras
set up all around the bird, so we could study not only how
it was approaching the perch, but how it would kind of
absorb the impact with its legs and then wrap its feet and
claws around the perch. What we found was that the
birds would essentially use the same strategies with
their wings and with their legs on all of the different perches,
regardless of the surface. But then they wind delegate
handling surface features to their feet and their claws. The more slippery
perches, the birds tended to curl their claws
more, but for the really rough like sandpaper, for
example, they didn’t really need to curl their claws. And then when we looked
at the squeeze forces, we noticed that
essentially perches that the birds
could squeeze more, they tended to curl
their claws less. This gives us insight both into
how animals are able to really robustly perform landing
maneuvers in nature and kind of unstructured
environments, where there’s so much variation. But it also can
give us inspiration into how to effectively
design robots to do the same types of maneuvers. You can imagine that an aerial
robot could take off and land on like a much wider range
of different environments and surfaces, and so that
would be really enabling for any robotics applications. For more, please visit
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