Aug 2, 2009

Emulating the Right Stuff

When we set out to copy nature there's an interesting conundrum that arises. If we emulate form rather than function the results are usually pretty drastic. As this video shows:

For the same reasons that birds can't use propellors, our machines have never done well with "bird-like" structures. I guess this need to differentiate function from form when we learn from what's gone before applies to other fields too...? If you have any good examples that agree or disagree with this statement, please share.


siouxpilot said...

looks like some of my students landings...
Love your blog, please check out mine about my stories as a flight instructor.

Sarah said...

Interesting. Natural forms, to be obvious about it, "grew" that way. Which is why you don't see any wheels in nature, hoop snakes aside.

If the unfortunate designer of the "seagull" vehicle had computer driven flight control servos along with the variable aspect ratio & incidence, he may have had something. His technology was not up to implementing what he could imagine.

It's fascinating to watch birds in flight, say "hovering" in ridge lift, make subtle wing and especially tail adjustments to station keep effortlessly. That's the level of control needed to fly like a bird.

Not that easy to see the control but fun anyway:
Eagle cam
Falcon & goshawk

For now... air planes will have to do.

Anonymous said...

The control problems seemed to result more from the CG being too far forward. Roll and yaw looked stable. Pitch, on the other hand... but I have read that pilot error was possibly the cause and that he had simply been overwhelmed by the complexity of his own controls. The nose looks extremely heavy (notice negative AoA in level flight just after rotation) which certainly doesn't follow the form of a seagull. Nothing wrong with imitating nature but you've got to stay true to the original design to have a chance at making it work. Bonney had some very advanced design ideas including rotating wings that acted as speed brakes to enable short field landings.