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Albatross flight

Miracles of Flight

Albatrosses captivated scientist Philip Richardson during his physical oceanography career at WHOI, where he watched the large seabirds soar near the decks of traveling research vessels. After he retired in 1999, Richardson began studying the aerodynamics of their flights, particularly their innate ability to fly long distances while rarely flapping their wings. This year, the results of his research were published in two papers (Paper 1 (pdf), Paper 2 (pdf)). He suggests that engineers could apply the same flight principals employed by albatrosses to unmanned aerial vehicles, what he calls "robotic albatrosses." They could fly above waves to make long-distance ocean research surveys, or assist with search and rescue missions. (Photo by Phil Richardson, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution )


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