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albatross in flight

Soaring Over the Bounding Main

On numerous voyages, WHOI physical oceanographer Phil Richardson had marveled at albatrosses' ability to soar into high winds and remain aloft seemingly forever without ever flapping their wings. A sailor and a pilot, as well as an oceanographer, Richardson began to study albatross aerodynamics. He devised a relatively simple model that captures the essential physics of dynamic soaring of albatrosses, incorporating both winds and waves. His findings were published in 2011 issue in the journal Progress in Oceanography. He just submitted a paper to the Journal of Applied Technology about the possibility of fast flight using dynamic soaring by a robotic albatross unmanned aerial vehicle. Richardson's myriad interests and talents also includes photography. This wandering albatross with an 11-foot wingspan was soaring over the Southern Ocean. (Photo by Phil Richardson, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)


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