Falcon Attack Strategy May One Day Inspire New Visually Guided Drones

By Sami Ghanmi | Dec 06, 2017 08:49 PM EST
Researchers said the peregrine falcons' attack strategy may one day inspire new visually guided drones that can target rogue drones. They fit these birds with video cameras and GPS to study how they move and swoop down on their preys. (Photo : Pixabay)

The peregrine falcon's ability to swoop down on a moving prey may one day inspire researchers to develop new visually guided drones that can target rogue unmanned aerial vehicles in a restricted airspace, a new study finds.

Inspired By The Peregrine Falcon

Researchers from the Department of Zoology at the Oxford University were inspired by how peregrine falcons can move quickly and dive like missiles in order to catch their preys.

To study these fascinating birds, researchers decided to fit eight peregrine falcons with video cameras and global positioning system devices.

Caroline Brighton, co-author of the study, said they spent four field seasons studying and watching peregrine falcons in the hills of Wales and working with a professional drone pilot and an experienced falconer.

"It was very exciting to study these sleek, formidable aerial predators, and to watch them as they chased down our maneuvering lure towed behind a small remote-controlled airplane - then, through our computer modelling, to reveal the secret of their attack strategy." Brighton continued.

Peregrine Falcons Can Dive Like Missiles

Based on the video cameras, researchers found that the trajectories of peregrine falcons followed the same law used by most visually guided missiles. The guidance law is known as proportional navigation and is used in some form or another by most homing air target missiles.

Researchers say the strategy would one day allow researchers to develop a new kind of visually guided drone that can take out rogue drones safely from the vicinity of airports, prisons, and other protected airspaces.

Also, the research shows that the technique does not need any information on how fast a target is moving or how far or close is the target. Rather, the method simply relies on information about "the rotation of the attacker's line of sight to the target."

The Peregrine Falcon

Contrary to what most people think, the peregrine falcon is actually the fastest animal on Earth, even faster than cheetahs. The falcon can reach speeds of up to more than 200 mph. It has a large crow-sized body with a black head, and, a blue-grey back, and white underparts.

Also, the peregrine falcon is a highly admired falconry bird and has been used in falconry for more than 3,000 years.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and was funded by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory.

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