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Farzeen Shahid, Jing-Shan Zhao and Pascal Godefroit (2019)

Design of flying robots inspired by the evolution of avian flight

Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part C: Journal of Mechanical Engineering Science, 203-210.

Bionic design of flying robots based on natural models has become a hot topic in mechanical engineering. The research going on in this direction considers that there is a lot to learn from flying animals such as birds, insects, and bats, from walking on the ground to getting enough power to be airborne. To get an efficient design of flying robots, we must better understand the origin of flight. This paper focuses on the review of avian flight and its possible application in the design of flying robots. Different hypotheses have been proposed to tackle the origin and evolution of avian flight from cursorial dinosaurs to modern birds, including the famous ground-up and tree-down theories. During the past decade, discoveries of feathered and winged dinosaurs from Liaoning, China, strongly supported the theory that birds originated from theropod dinosaurs. The transition from running on the ground to maneuver in the sky involves various stages of flights and plumages, which can be now illustrated by several representative paravian dinosaurs from Liaoning. Those fossils provide good research bases for the design of flying robots. Microraptor is one of those important transitional stages in the evolution of flight. This paravian dinosaur is characterized by the presence of pennaceous feathers along both its arms and its legs, but how it could actually fly is still debated. It is of course difficult to evaluate the flight performances of an extinct animal, but aerodynamics of a four-wing robot can be developed to get some knowledge about its flying capacity. Fossil and living flying animals with different morphologies, stability, and control mechanism can be a source of inspiration for designing socially relevant products.
Peer Review, Impact Factor
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