Monthly Archives: August 2014

Hummingbirds, helicopters, and hovering

Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird (archilochus colubris)Animals can be extremely helpful to researchers as they are trying to understand human disease. But now, a tiny bird is teaching researchers about hovering- and they hope to use hummingbirds as an inspiration to build more efficient helicopters!

They found that a particular micro helicopter is about as efficient as the average hummingbird, which is pretty amazing. But there’s still room for improvement. By visualizing airflow around hummingbird wings, researchers were able to measure the drag and lift force exerted at various angles and speeds. They also studied the hummingbird’s wing aspect ratio (the ratio of wing length to wing width) to determine how performance could be improved. It’s possible that understanding the ways that these birds change direction quickly and remain steady in strong winds can help researchers improve the efficiency of current helicopters.

Check out this slow-motion video of a hummingbird in action- it’s pretty neat! Read more about this research here: