Researchers turn dead birds into mechanized spy drones

photo of bird drone

Scientists have developed a rather macabre way of turning literal dead birds into spy drones that can fly and snap pictures.

Did you ever hear the not-too-old joke that the 2020-21 COVID lockdowns were really a global conspiracy to shut society indoors so world governments could replace the batteries in all the world’s birds? Well, this story hits amusingly close.

A team of technical researchers and scientists have recently explained how they successfully designed and created drones from the bodies of assorted dead birds of different species for camouflaged wildlife surveillance.

In a video presentation submitted this past January to the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics SciTech 2023 Forum, the scientists explained their cleverly executed but mundane motives.

One of the lead authors, Mostafa Hassanalian, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology summarized, “Instead of using artificial materials for building drones, we can use the dead birds and re-engineer them as a drone.”

In further comments made to the website New Scientists, Hassanalian explains that the drones are even designed to simulate the flight of birds by flapping their wings. They can do this through mechanical propellers implanted into their taxidermied and reassembled bodies.

photo of bird drone parts

If all of this makes you downright squeamish, it’s being done for a good environmental cause. By being built in this way, the dead bird drones, dubbed “ornithopters” in probable homage to Frank Herbert’s Dune novels, will be used to monitor wildlife and migratory bird movements in particular.

As Hassanalian explains, because the drones look and move more or less like living birds “it is very practical for research purposes and can keep nature undisturbed.”

The lead author also adds that bird flight lets avians conserve more than 40 percent of their energy through formation flights and switching positions in the air.

Consequently, the bird drones will also hopefully let researchers learn more about applying the same aerodynamics to mechanized drones and aircraft.

The same drone technology, albeit without using actual dead birds, could also eventually be used by military surveillance programs according to the researcher. He noted that his team’s current bird drones are much too noisy for this though.

Here’s another video of one of these bird drones going for a test flight:

Whether we’ll eventually see bird-shaped drones that fly like birds in the consumer UAV market is an interesting question.

So far, existing drone designs seem to be handling things quite well for legions of aerial videographers, researchers and photographers. On the other hand, they rarely need to be disguised as anything other than mechanical drones either.

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Shotkit Journalist, Writer & Reviewer

Stephan Jukic is a technology and photography journalist and experimental photographer who spends his time living in both Canada and Mexico. He loves cross-cultural street photo exploration and creating fine art photo compositions.

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