How did scientists build a better spy plane? A little bird told them. Engineers have developed a micro air vehicle (MAV) that mimics the flight abilities of the swift, a passerine bird renowned for its aerial acrobatics. Camera-mounted MAVs are frequently used in reconnaissance and rescue missions to scope out a dangerous situation before humans go in. Most of these micro-planes use a fixed-wing design because gliding is more energy efficient and allows for better picture quality. Flapping wings would allow for greater maneuverability, but at the cost of a shakier image. Researchers presenting at the Society of Experimental Biology annual conference in Glasgow based their new MAV on the swift's aerodynamics, combining both flapping and gliding abilities into a single vehicle. Though their prototype is still being tested, the researchers say their initial trials have been promising.
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