A team of scientists in the South West is furthering aviation research by using dead birds in an unusual way—as drones! The birds, which are preserved through taxidermy, are transformed by researchers at the New Mexico Institute of Mining in Technology in Socorro. The aim is to study flight patterns, according to Reuters.

Come Fly With Me

The researchers are using real birds because mechanical ones did not have the same effect, according to project leader and mechanical engineering professor Dr. Mostafa Hassanalian. 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 bird drones are undergoing testing in a cage at the university. Currently, the taxidermy bird can only fly for 20 minutes at a time. The team is working on longer flight times and integrating it among living birds.

The purpose is to examine birds’ formation and flight patterns and later apply it to the aviation industry. If the scientists can determine how birds manage their energy, it could help the aviation industry do the same, which could save fuel, Hassanalian noted.

A bird’s coloring is often seen as camouflage and a method of attracting a mate. But New Mexico Tech Ph.D. student Brenden Herkenhoff is working on the correlation between coloration and flight efficiency. The team has conducted experiments and concluded that certain colors can change the flight efficiency of fixed-wing aircraft. “The same is true for birds, we believe,” he said.

Better Luck Nest Time

Coincidentally, the taxidermy drone project is occurring while certain members of Generation Z support a “Birds Aren’t Real” conspiracy theory that purports that birds are in fact drones used by the U.S. government to spy on Americans. According to MSN, the movement, which started in 2019, is actually satire.

Peter McIndoe, who started the conspiracy theory told CBS:  “So it’s taking this concept of misinformation and almost building a little safe space to come together within it and laugh at it, rather than be scared by it. And accept the lunacy of it all and be a bird truther for a moment in time when everything’s so crazy.”

While, as far as we know, the federal government is not using bird drones for spying, it does have a history of monitoring U.S. citizens’ telephone records.

Hassanalian told MSN that his team’s research has nothing to do with the conspiracy theory: “I actually did not know about the people of ‘The birds aren’t real.’ I found out about them once my story came out for the first time.”

By Noelle Talmon, contributor for Ripleys.com


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