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Peregrine Falcon inspires future aircraft technology

22 March 2017

BAE Systems and City, University of London revealed research on falcon flight inspiring new aircraft tech contributing to efficiency and aerodynamics.

Peregrine Falcon (Credit: Shutterstock)

The Peregrine Falcon is the world’s fastest bird; it’s able to stay in control and airborne at speeds of 200mph, even in high winds. Scientists have developed several concepts based around this ability, one being ‘sensory feathers’. These 3D printed polymer ‘hair’ filaments would act like sensors on the body of an aircraft and provide an early warning of system failure. More tightly packed passive polymer filaments could also be capable of changing the airflow on the surface of the aircraft, which would reduce drag and speed up the aircraft during flight.

The other technology is based on the falcon’s ability to stabilise itself after swooping or landing by ruffling its feathers. Small flexible or hinged flaps on an aircraft could give it the ability to manoeuvre quickly and land more safely at lower speeds. This could allow for future aircraft design of a compact nature and the ability to carry more fuel. Research has also shown the flaps could potentially lower aircraft noise pollution. 

Professor Christoph Bruecker from City’s Aeronautical Engineering department, said: “The peregrine falcon is the world’s fastest bird, able to dive for prey at incredibly steep angles and high velocities. The research work has been truly fascinating and I am sure it will deliver some real innovation and benefits for the aerospace sector.”

Professor Clyde Warsop, a specialist in Aerodynamic Flow Control from our military aircraft business based at Filton in Bristol and Warton in Lancashire added: “Working with Professor Christoph Bruecker and his team at City, we’ve investigated how we could apply the unique abilities of the peregrine falcon to aircraft. Bio-inspiration is not a new concept; many technologies that we use every day are increasingly inspired by animals and nature.”

Aircraft technology concepts (Credit: BAE Systems)

Materials courtesy of BAE Systems.

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