Stanford University researchers affixed actual pigeon feathers to a robot to allow it to fly like a bird.
The propeller-driven PigeonBot has wrist and feather joints in each wing that can be remotely controlled, allowing it to achieve an average flying speed of about 40 kph (about 25 mph).
Stanford's David Lentink and colleagues learned this type of flight was possible due to certain molecules in the feathers, which allow the feathers to move away from each other without getting too far apart, reducing the degree of individual feather control needed for accurate flight.
PigeonBot uses real feathers because it is impossible to synthetically replicate this characteristic.
Lentink said, "Feathers also have these unique properties, they have a lightness, a firmness to carry the aerodynamic load, and they're easy to repair."
From New Scientist
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