The peregrine falcon inspired aircraft

The peregrine falcon is the world’s fastest animal and can reach astonishing speeds of up to 320 kilometres per hour! It makes sense therefore, to utilise what makes this bird of prey so quick in the aerodynamics of upcoming aircraft concepts. BAE Systems and City, University of London have teamed up to do just that. Two pieces of tech have been revealed so far with the first aimed at safety and the second at fuel efficiency. If successful, the ideas could usher in a whole new era of aircraft design.

Sensory feathers

An innovative early warning system, 3D printer polymers would be used as sensors on the aircraft’s fuselage. If the engine begins to stall, they would illustrate the reduction in air flow to the pilot. This piece of technology is influenced by a peregrine falcon’s feathers that vibrate when they lose air flow. The birds dive at such intense speeds that if the angle is slightly off, nerves in its body warn the falcon that it could be about to lose control and fall through the air. The dense filaments will change the air flow near the surface of the plane to decrease drag and will alert the pilot if he or she needs to act to avoid a crash.

Nature inspired aircraft Nature inspired aircraft

Safe swoop

Peregrine falcons are pretty amazing animals. One skill they have in their locker is to stabilise itself when landing after a swoop. Known as ‘ruffling’, feathers on the wings lift upwards so they can slow down as they engage their prey. The plan is to devise a way to incorporate hinged flaps onto an aircraft to allow it to land at slower speeds and to make quick manoeuvres if needed. Reasearch has found that the flaps could lower noise pollution and allow for more compact and fuel-efficient aircraft.

Both BAE Systems and City, University of London say the technology could be incorporated within the next 20 years.

Nature inspired aircraft

What other animal abilities could we use on human-made technology and transport? Let us know and you can win £50 worth of books!

For more on the wonders of nature, pick up your copy of issue 97 from from all good retailers. If you have a tablet or smartphone, you can also download the digital version onto your iOS or Android device. To make sure you never miss an issue of How It Works magazine, subscribe today!