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Apr 11, 2017 09:48 AM EDT

Stanford Researchers Create New 3D Way Of Recording Bird Flight [Video]

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Stanford University researchers were able to develop a new method of recording the shape of birds' wings during flight. The ultimate goal is to unlock the secrets of birds' smooth sailing even while maneuvering through turbulent city skies.

Deeper understanding of the process that the birds use could lead to humans developing better technology for drones. David Lentink, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, said that they wanted to figure out how birds are able to fly so well in complex, turbulent environments.

Apparently, this ability comes from how the birds deform the shape of their wings to adjust to gusts quickly. These winged creatures have always been able to morph their wings to a variety of shapes but there is little research as to how the angles, twists and asymmetries of each wing work together.

In Stanford's official website, it was reported that researchers at the Lentink lab were able to create a new way of closely observing birds' morphing skills after seven years of development. They have developed a method of automatically recording wing shape that works at high speeds and results in high-definition 3D reconstructions.

Currently, techniques that allow for recording animals in motion rely on tracking markers attached to the animal or features of the animal like stripes or spots. This approach does not allow for direct or automatic reconstruction of an entire wing surface at high resolution.

There are other methods, too. One example is using patterned light, which is more easily automated. However, it is still too slow to record bird flight.

Stanford researchers have built on previous structured-light techniques. They tweaked it, though, by having their method resolve body shape changes at high speed and in high resolution.

Their paper is entitled "High-speed surface reconstruction of a flying bird using structured-light." It has been published in the "Journal of Experimental Biology."

Their setup includes a video camera synced with a projector that beams two overlapping patterns of light. The first layer is a dense grid that provides researchers with a high-resolution image by covering the surface of the bird. Second is a set of unequally spaced lines, which ensures that no two areas of the light field look alike.

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