Researchers Turn Dead Birds into Drones That Could Spy On People

Scientists are turning dead birds into drones that could be used to spy on wildlife and people.

A team of researchers revealed how they successfully developed drones from the bodies of stuffed dead birds in a study presented at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics SciTech 2023 Forum in January.

“Instead of using artificial materials for building drones, we can use the dead birds and re-engineer them as a drone,” lead author Mostafa Hassanalian, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, tells New Scientist.

The drones, known as “ornithopters,” are designed after the way that birds fly. They consist of a set of flapping wings and are powered by mechanical propellers.

In the study, researchers put together parts of taxidermy birds and artificial flapping drone mechanisms so that it looks and moves almost exactly like a bird.

The team of scientists conducted two flight tests using the ornithopters, including one that looked like a pheasant.

Researchers said while it is challenging to create these bird-like drones, “it is very practical for research purposes and can keep nature undisturbed.”

According to Hassanalian, these drones could help experts study wildlife — particularly how migratory birds conserve energy.

Hassanalian says that birds could conserve more than 40 percent of their energy by flying in formation and switching positions regularly and can cover 2,000 km in two days.

By using these drones to observe migratory birds, researchers will also learn how to apply nature’s methods to aircraft.

The drones could also be used to track deforestation and poachers in the future.

Hassanalian also says the drone could also be expanded down the line to help militaries and their spying programs.

However, he says that this would involve more research as the current prototype is too loud for military surveillance purposes.

“Sometimes you don’t want people to find out that this is a drone,” Hassanalian tells New Scientist.

PetaPixel previously reported on how researchers developed a new experimental drone that is capable of flying through the air and diving underwater.

The prototype of the hybrid drone, called the TJ-FlingFish, was developed by a team of scientists and researchers in China. The experimental drone achieves propulsion in both aerial and aquatic environments using the same propellers.

Image credits: All photos via “Taxidermy Birds as Platform for Flapping Wing Drones: A Bioinspired Mechanism for Wildlife Monitoring” in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics SciTech 2023 Forum.