WINGS FOR SOARING: Taking It To The Next Level - Beyond Jonathan Livingston Seagull


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It is less cambered than the inner wing and more flexible and it is this flexibility that leads to the momentum. As the wing is flapped downward the outer wing tends to twist slightly forwards, this is due to a number of reasons, one being that air passing under the wing tends to well up toward the tip and as it does so it forces its way out under the back of the wingtip, tilting the wing forward. To better understand flapping flight, we will make our observations on a bird in stabilized flight, without taking into account takeoffs and landings which are more complex to analyze. One can consider that during the flight, the bird carries out three essential motions with its wings:.

Generally, the bird does not use its tail during a straight flight phase, but remains retracted most of the time. During a cycle of flaps, the wings exert, alternatively, a propulsion while going down , and a deceleration while going up. According to whether they take place below the average plan or not, these forces create an alternative couple on the trim. The bird compensates this by a continuous search for balance, moving its aerodynamic center with respect to its center of gravity i.

Both vertical and horizontal motions are combined together to describe eight-shaped kinematics of the wing. In flight, on one hand, the horizontal speed due to the displacement is the same all along the wingspan, but on the other hand, the vertical speed due to the beat is null at the base and increases gradually to the end of the wing. Both speeds combine together and make the angle of attack of the airflows vary according to the position of the wing : horizontal at the base and more vertical near the extremity. But a profile only tolerates a small variation in its angle of incidence.

Consequently, the bird adapts its wing twist to keep a nearly constant angle of incidence. This results in a twist of the wings ends, twisting negative while going down, and positive while going up. As the lifting force has a direction perpendicular to the plane of the wing, it will swing the wing forwards during the descent by the same way that a helicopter rotor swings forwards and propels the aircraft horizontally. Thus it is the flapping, associated with a judicious twist of the wings, that propels the bird and allows him to fly.

By flapping its wings down, together with the forward motion of the body, a bird can tilt the lift of its wings forward for propulsion. Why don't birds simply move their wings up and down, without twisting and folding?

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Notice that the outer part of the wing moves down much farther than the inner part close to the body. Twisting allows each part of the wing to keep the necessary angle relative to the airflow.

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Jonathan Livingston Seagull

If part of the wing is angled lower than the airflow, there might not be enough lift. If part of the wing is pointed too high, there could be a lot of drag. The wings are flexible, so they twist automatically. Wing folding isn't essential - ornithopters fly without it - but it helps birds fly with less effort. To see why it is helpful, think about what happens during the upstroke.

Because the wing is going up, the lift vector points backward, especially in the outer portion of the wing. The upstroke actually slows the bird down! By folding its wings decreasing the wingspan a bird can reduce drag during the upstroke. In addition to the three basic movements described here, birds can do a lot of other things with their wings to allow them to maneuver in the air. Instead of using their tails for flight control, they move their wings forward and backward for balance.

To make a turn, they can twist the wings or apply more power on one side. For slow flight, birds can flap their wings almost forward and backward instead of vertically; the upstroke and downstroke produce lift without forward body motion. Flying, like any other mode of locomotion can be done at different speeds. Unlike humans that either walk or run though, birds do not have such clear cut gaits in their flight.

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Generally though it is thought that there are two overall flight strategies used by birds. These have been designated minimum power and maximum range and are derived from power curve produced during flight. These power curves have been made by measuring the power requirements of birds in air tunnels flying at different speeds. The maximum range speed would be the one that a bird would be expected to use if it was migrating or was in a hurry to get somewhere. The minimum power speed on the other hand would be best used when a bird was foraging or had no time requirement to its flight.

Measurements taken of migrating birds do suggest that these figures might represent a real phenomenon. The strength of the flight muscles then will obviously set a limit to the birds power output and the bird is able to fly at high speeds for a short bursts or at lower speeds for a longer periods, like a human running.

There are a number of different ways that a bird can flap its wings and this is influenced by the musculature, the type of wing and the speed at which the bird wishes to fly. It is also found that some birds also have the ability to extract lift from the wing flip, or upstroke whilst others can only produce power on the downstroke. By flying in this fashion the birds gait is changed, so that if it flies through helium filled bubbles , the wake produced by using the upstroke to generate lift produces what is known as a continuous-vortex gait whilst when only the downstroke is used a vortex-ring gait is produced.

Pigeon vortex-ring wake Gull continunous wake. Small passerines and some larger birds have another way of flying, instead of continuously flapping their wings they change rhythmically from flapping to gliding when the wing is extended or flapping to bounding when the wing is flexed. In this way they undergo an undulating flight where first using flapping they propel themselves forward on a slightly rising vector, then at the peak of the rise they cease flapping and continue forward by either gliding or closing their wings and bounding.


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This type of flying is stereotypic for some bird species, with for instance, the woodpecker that undergoes pronounced flap-bounding and the flap-gliding seen in the falcons and be used as a characteristic for field identification. The reasons for this type of flying are still being examined and there are a number of different aspects under discussion. It is thought that this intermittent flying gait, used mainly in small birds such as the passerines may simply be due to the birds flight muscles being unable to perform continuous flapping, so they are rested during the bounding or gliding phase.

Small birds are very light and so drag will often have a stronger influence on their flight than gravity. For this reason it has been suggested that birds may bound between flapping to minimise drag.

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Gulls maintain lift all along the flapping cycle. However, most birds cannot generate lift during the flap-up. The precise movements of the wings will not be included into the flight model. However, they will hopefully show accurately in the 3D animation. Flight morphology. Flight physics. Flight model. The aim of this project is to model with some degree of accuracy the flight dynamics of birds and to render it in real-time in a 3D environment.

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The flight model will be as general as possible in order to be appliable to most winged birds, but I have chosen the Seagull as a bird of choice because I love the way this bird flies. It offers a rich mixture of soaring and flapping capabilities that makes modelling it both interesting and entertaining. This section describes the crucial body parts of a bird allowing it to fly. Most of this section is information selected from a serie of on-line lectures given at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth.

Check the original site for a more complete coverage of bird flight physiology. In the case of the bird wing, the free movement around the joint of the wrist is curtailed so that there is only movement in one plane, preventing the wing from bending up or down during the forces exerted by flight. In birds the elbow and wrist joints are linked so that extending the elbow automatically extends the wrist.

This is possible because unlike in the elbow of humans, in the bird wing both the ulna and the radius have their own condyle point of articulation on the distal end of the humerus. The ulna is more distal to the radius on the elbow so that when the elbow is flexed the two bones of the forearm oppose one another. The radius is then pushed into the various carpal bones of the wrist whilst the ulna is withdrawn.

This automatically makes the wrist, and thus the hand flex too and the wing is folded. During extension of the wing the opposite movement occurs. In this way the wing is controlled by the flight muscles, decreasing weight and simplifying coordination. The same can be said for landing where the legs are often used to absorb the large amounts of energy that are generated during initial contact with the ground. Obviously tail types vary greatly within the birds and some tails are used for display as well as for flight, but like the wing, their shape is often influenced by their lifestyle.

They can produce a smooth uninterrupted surface over which air can pass freely and can remain flexible without losing their aerodynamic properties. Further to that, the surface is also somewhat malleable, giving under areas of pressure, thus letting air pass more easily over the body without disrupting flow and causing drag. In this section are described the mecanics of the flight.

From them I've selected and made some editing to those parts that were potentially useful for my model. Check the original site for further information. Now a birds wing, when outstretched into the air, is held at a slight downward angle to the onflowing air. This means that air passes over the wing faster than it passes under the wing so there will be less pressure above the wing and more pressure below. This change in pressure causes the wing to move toward the lower pressure with a helping push from the higher presssure below it, thus causes lift.

It has to be remembered though, that without drag, caused by the movement of air across the wing, it would not be possible to gain any lift, so a zero drag situation is not only out of the question, but it would also be highly undesirable. The angle of attack is the angle at which the leading edge cuts into the forward flow of air and around degrees is often quoted as being the norm. Increasing this angle increases the volume of air diverted over the wing and leads to an increase in lift, but this is at the expense of drag which quickly increases.

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This can be demonstrated easily by holding your hand out of a car window as it is being driven along. If you hold your hand flat and then gently rotate it into the oncoming airflow you should feel a gradual increase in lift until finally when you turn it too far it will suddenly lose all its lift and your hand will be jerked backward by the airflow, this is called a stall and is due to the loss of a smooth airflow over your hand. The aspect ratio of a wing is important as generally the higher the aspect ratio longer and narrower wings the lower the induced drag produced by the wing at a given speed.

Wings with a high aspect ratio tend to be found on birds that soar at relatively high speed whilst those with lower aspect ratios shorter, wider wings are found on birds that soar at lower speeds.


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  • Wing loadings have an important implication on large birds and explains why there is a limit to their size. As a bird increase in size, its volume, and so its mass will increase by the cube root, whilst the wing surface only increases as a square root, this is often termed scaling. As the bird gets larger its wing loading will increase until it reaches a value that cannot be sustained. The vultures, albatross and swans are very large birds, at the extreme end of the size scale and have solved the problem of size in different ways.

    Neither the vulture or the albatross is very proficient at powered flight and both birds rely heavily on their environment to produce the lift they require to both take off and to stay in the air. The vulture though, uses high lift wings to keep itself aloft, loitering on thermals as it scans the savanna for carrion, whilst the higher wing loadings of the albatross mean that it must cruise at much higher speeds to stay airborne.

    WINGS FOR SOARING: Taking It To The Next Level - Beyond Jonathan Livingston Seagull WINGS FOR SOARING: Taking It To The Next Level - Beyond Jonathan Livingston Seagull
    WINGS FOR SOARING: Taking It To The Next Level - Beyond Jonathan Livingston Seagull WINGS FOR SOARING: Taking It To The Next Level - Beyond Jonathan Livingston Seagull
    WINGS FOR SOARING: Taking It To The Next Level - Beyond Jonathan Livingston Seagull WINGS FOR SOARING: Taking It To The Next Level - Beyond Jonathan Livingston Seagull
    WINGS FOR SOARING: Taking It To The Next Level - Beyond Jonathan Livingston Seagull WINGS FOR SOARING: Taking It To The Next Level - Beyond Jonathan Livingston Seagull
    WINGS FOR SOARING: Taking It To The Next Level - Beyond Jonathan Livingston Seagull WINGS FOR SOARING: Taking It To The Next Level - Beyond Jonathan Livingston Seagull
    WINGS FOR SOARING: Taking It To The Next Level - Beyond Jonathan Livingston Seagull WINGS FOR SOARING: Taking It To The Next Level - Beyond Jonathan Livingston Seagull
    WINGS FOR SOARING: Taking It To The Next Level - Beyond Jonathan Livingston Seagull WINGS FOR SOARING: Taking It To The Next Level - Beyond Jonathan Livingston Seagull
    WINGS FOR SOARING: Taking It To The Next Level - Beyond Jonathan Livingston Seagull WINGS FOR SOARING: Taking It To The Next Level - Beyond Jonathan Livingston Seagull
    WINGS FOR SOARING: Taking It To The Next Level - Beyond Jonathan Livingston Seagull

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