Even the Color of Albatross Wings Actually Helps Them Fly Better

Khryss | Published 2017-10-22 03:33

You now know what to do, drone designers!

Aerospace engineer Abdessattar Abdelkefi and his team at New Mexico State University was trying to devise better drone designs. But along the process, they stumbled on a different discovery.

What, you say? The science behind bird wings color.

Did you know that the wings of large soaring birds like albatross are white beneath and black on top? Does that even matter? Well, previous researchers actually noticed that and explained how this is for camouflage, says Graham Martin at the University of Birmingham, UK.

But Abdelkefi’s team wondered, will it affect endurance in flight? "[For] most soaring needs no flapping of wings; instead, the bird exploits air currents to glide," NewScientist reported.

With this question in mind, they found that the black upper surface of the wings actually absorbs sunlight very efficiently. This makes the white surface underneath 10°C colder than the upper surface, which decreases its air pressure, consequently lowering drag and increasing lift.

But while thermography has proved that the color of the top surface becomes hotter in sunlight, its effect on bird flight is still uncertain, says Svana Rogalla at the University of Ghent, Belgium. "The impact of colour on flight could be a further inducement for birds to make costly melanin pigment to darken feathers," she says as reported by NewScientist.

Well, the researchers are no bird experts but they hope that these findings will aid in those drone designs their rooting for. What's better than following nature's composition for more efficient and durable drones, right?

https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23631472-600-drone-engineers-accidentally-explain-the-colour-of-albatross-wings/

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