According to recent reporting from multiple news outlets, a group of researchers at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro are transforming taxidermied birds into drones as part of their study on flight.

Dr. Mostafa Hassanalian, a mechanical engineering professor heading the project, discovered that using artificial, mechanical birds did not produce the desired outcomes. He explained, “We came up with this idea that we can use dead birds and make them into a drone. Everything is there… we do reverse engineering.”

The university is currently testing taxidermy bird drones in a specially designed cage. The aim is to gain a better understanding of flock formation and flight patterns, which can be applied to the aviation industry, according to Hassanalian, the project leader and a mechanical engineering professor at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology.

“If we learn how these birds manage … energy between themselves, we can apply (that) into the future aviation industry to save more energy and save more fuel,” he said.

Brenden Herkenhoff, a Ph.D. student at New Mexico Tech, is conducting research on the relationship between coloration and flight efficiency in birds. While many commonly believe that a bird’s color is primarily for attracting mates or providing camouflage, Herkenhoff is examining how color influences the efficiency of their flight.

“We’ve done experiments and determined that for our fixed-wing aircraft, applying certain colors can change the flight efficiency. And the same is true for birds, we believe,” he said.

According to Hassanalian, the current taxidermy bird drone can fly for a maximum of 20 minutes, and the team is now working on ways to extend its flight time. They also plan to conduct field tests with live birds to develop the technology further.

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