Bird Carcasses Turned Into Drones Is Dystopian Body Horror IRL

Researchers at New Mexico Tech are exploring taxidermy drones as a new method for wildlife monitoring and other surveillance.

The concept of a nature-inspired "orthopter" has taken on a whole new meaning as researchers not only used birds as models, but also their carcasses to create drones. An orthopter is an aircraft designed to simulate the flight mechanics of birds and other flying animals (i.e. insects and bats) by incorporating flapping wings. Consider Dune's "orthopter," reminiscent of a dragonfly. In fact, attempts to build such a vehicle capable of carrying people have met with little success, but advances in drone technology have provided new directions for the design. When zoomed out, it can be used for other purposes, such as observation.

Unfortunately, this is where the taxidermy bird drone comes in. Yes, drones are made from the body parts of real birds, and researchers at the New Mexico Institute of Technology are exploring a "more seamless and natural" approach to "wildlife monitoring." In theory, lifelike bird drones could blend in nicely with flocks without causing any disturbance, the team explained in a recent paper. The implications for other types of surveillance need no elaboration (though according to Interesting Engineering, researchers have done so, noting that drones could be used for government or military espionage). Suddenly, those Birds Aren't Real truthers don't seem so ironic anymore.

Flight Of The Living Dead

bird The drone, demonstrated at the American Society of Aeronautics and Astronautics' SciTech 2023 forum, aims to make man-made machinery more stealthy by covering it with natural parts. "It was found that while making such a drone would be difficult, it would be very practical for research purposes and to keep nature undisturbed," the researchers wrote in the paper's abstract. Alas, just because a human can One should.

In one example in the paper, the team combined the taxidermy body of a pheasant with the wings of a pigeon to create a veritable Frankenstein drone monster stuffed with visible wires and flapping mechanisms . Another, finer specimen, shown on the YouTube channel of researcher Mostafa Hassanalian, is more convincing. That is, until you see it fly.

Drones are currently (thankfully) extremely limited in their ability to fly, although the team has identified some solutions to eliminate some of the issues. There is also the option to add outriggers, the researchers note, "so that the drone can be docked and monitored without using too much battery." What if we just... give up on the idea altogether?

MORE: Meet the first aerial and underwater drones

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