the current airplane design has been inspired in early years from…wild birds?
And birds still continue to inspire aircraft design, as NASA (article here) or major airplane producers look to make flights more efficient? One example, as per Biomimeticsummit, sea birds have the ability to sense gust loads in the air with their beaks and react by adjusting the shape of their wing feathers to suppress lift. The nose of the new Airbus A350XWB contains probes which can detect gusts and deploy movable wing surfaces for more efficient flight. This helps reduce fuel consumption and emissions.
Many more ongoing examples here, however it may started as early as Leonardo da Vinci who researched the wing design of birds and designed a man-powered aircraft in his Codex on the Flight of Birds (1502), which begins with an examination of the flight behavior of birds and proposes mechanisms for flight by machines. In year 2018, we cannot conceive our current or future world without airplanes, as per flightradar24.com, a new record of number of flights is recorded all too often, last one I know counted more than 19.000 airplanes flying in same time as of 1st of July 2018, and a total number of 202.157 were flying that day (actually this record may have been already beaten)!
But let’s have a look how did we reward our mentors? As per BIP (The Biodiversity Indicators Partnership), the Wild Bird Index (WBI) is the average trend in relative abundance of a group of bird species during the breeding season, often grouped by their association and dependence on a particular habitat. It is particularly suited to tracking trends in the condition of habitats through obligate or specialist species. Birds are recognized as good indicators of environmental change and as useful proxies of wider changes in nature. The Wild Bird Index measures average population trends of a suite of representative wild birds as an indicator of the general health of the environment.
Below graph, as well as other sources (at the end of the article), shows an accelerated decline in number of wild birds, some as low as 60%! The most recent stabilization shown I believe is temporary, as human global population is poised to reach 10 bn, pressure on environment is tremendous! Among reasons for birds population drop is destruction of habitat, loss of nesting sites, pollution of their feeding grounds, pesticides and herbicides used in agriculture that impacts their main food source – the insects, and the climate change and intensive urbanization and industrialization of the agriculture.
To be reminded, the disappearance of a population, subspecies, or species represents the permanent loss of a range of genes.
Needless to say, it doesn’t have to be like this! I hope it is not too late for these masters of the skies, and they can withstand the recent turbulence created by humankind, while we try to regain our wisdom and learn how to live in harmony with nature and its wonderful species, from which we continue to learn!
The Biodiversity Indicators Partnership