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Water Birds Reveal New Direction For Aircraft Landing Research

posted 8 Aug 2013, 09:12 by Mpelembe Admin   [ updated 8 Aug 2013, 09:14 ]

Research into the landing behaviour of water birds has revealed that they appear to align with magnetic field lines to choose their preferred landing direction, which is usually along the north-south axis. Czech scientists say the research could assist in improving landing navigation systems for aircraft, helping to prevent accidents when planes land close to water. Suzannah Butcher reports.

PRAGUE AND SOUTH BOHEMIA, CZECH REPUBLIC (REUTERS/SCIENTIST TEAM) - It's long been known that birds have a kind of magnetic compass in their heads, helping them fly in the right direction on long journeys.

But now scientists say this compass appears to be helping them land as well.

A study of more than 3,000 flocks of birds shows that they almost always land in the same direction - on the north/south axis.

Professor Jaroslav Cerveny said he was initially sceptical when his colleague saw the pattern.

CHIEF SCIENTIST AND PROFESSOR AT PRAGUE'S UNIVERSITY OF LIFE SCIENCES, JAROSLAV CERVENY

"Vlasta noticed that the ducks were always landing in the same direction, facing north. Initially, I thought this was a coincidence, and that they were landing against the direction of the wind. But there was no wind at all. Anyway, I didn't believe in it for a long time."

It appears the birds are using the earth's magnetic field as a landing guide.

Cerveny says that in the future, this knowledge could help improve air safety.

CHIEF SCIENTIST AND PROFESSOR AT PRAGUE'S UNIVERSITY OF LIFE SCIENCES, JAROSLAV CERVENY,

"The results of our research can be used in the future to improve flying navigation systems, because landing navigation is always more difficult closer to water than above dry land."

The team from Prague's University of Life Sciences carried out the study in eight countries with 14 different bird species.

The landing pattern was the same regardless of the weather conditions.



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