New project turns taxidermy birds into drones for potential spying missions

Researchers are leaving behind the artificial ways of building drones. Now, they’re exploring the use of dead animal bodies to re-engineer them as drones.

What sounds like something straight out of a sci-fi movie is a reality studied by Mostafa Hassanalian and his colleagues at a public university New Mexico Tech.

The project, presented at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ SciTech Forum in January, combines taxidermy bird parts with artificial flapping drone mechanisms to resemble living animals.

The team has created two dead birds – one where an artificial body was combined with a pheasant’s head and feathers, and another, which fused a robotic body with pigeon wings. No living animals were harmed in the process.

“Instead of using artificial materials for building drones, we can use the dead birds and re-engineer them as a drone,” says Hassanalian.

Although the robotic birds look impressive, they are not yet anywhere near the levels of real birds in terms of speed and maneuverability. They can glide and hover in place, but a more sophisticated design is yet underway.

The real question is: what would these artificial birds be used for? One answer seems quite apparent: for spying and surveillance. Naturally-looking drones would attract much less attention in military use.

Additionally, they could be deployed to study wildlife, as they would attract less attention from animals and cause less destruction to the environment. Finally, these creations could lead to new potential discoveries, such as how birds conserve energy while flying in V-formations.

Daniel Bruce, a Chief Product Officer for Levatas, an AI company, has previously told Cybernews that humanoid robots are also just ten years away, signaling that robotic birds are not the only things we’ll have to eventually get used to.

"I think we're going to see humanoid robots entering everyday life, almost the way that we see drones today."