Periodic Reporting for period 2 - HawkEye (Vision-based Guidance and Control in Birds, with Applications to Autonomous Unmanned Aircraft)
Reporting period: 2018-02-01 to 2019-07-31
We have also spent Years 1-3 of the project undertaking several experimental and observational studies in the field. These include tests with Peregrine Falcons and our regular flying team of Harris' Hawks wearing small MEMS sensors, like those in a mobile phone, to measure their head and body movements whilst chasing maneuvering artificial targets. The results, published in the journal PNAS and reported on worldwide, show that peregrines have evolved to use the same guidance law as most guided missiles. The results of our studies with hawks show that they have evolved to use a slightly different guidance law, better adapted to their natural habit of close pursuit of prey through clutter, and will be published shortly. These field experiments have been complemented by three observational studies of attacks by hawks and falcons on wild prey, in which we have used stereo video techniques to reconstruct the 3D trajectories of the attacks and escapes that we observed. At the same time, we have developed a new physics-based flight simulator for birds that allows us to model the optimal attack and escape strategies of birds in a virtual environment, almost like a video game that is played by the computer against itself. The results of this work, published in the online journal PLoS Computational Biology and the Journal of Avian Biology, show that stooping from altitude increases catch success primarily by increasing the aerodynamic forces for manoeuvring. Remarkably, the simulations also confirm that catch success is maximised when the guidance law is tuned in the same way as we had found experimentally in our peregrines.
We are now in the process of applying some of the insights that we have obtained on target pursuit to drones flown indoors under the gaze of the motion capture system, which will be a primary focus of the work in the remainder of Years 3-5.