IS IT A BIRD?IS IT A PLANE? BIOMIMICRY IN AIRPLANES
Biomimicry is a type of innovation where scientists and engineers look for solutions to the challenges that face human beings by using the patterns of nature. Nature has configurations that are time tested and accurate. Human beings aim to create processes that will be sustainable for the future generations and the later life on earth. There are many instances where biomimicry has solved problems in the natural world.
In engineering, biomimicry applies because nature inspires designs like navigation vessels, ships among other creative and innovative products (4). Nature acts an inspiration for many designs and innovations. One of the main innovations is how airplanes have taken the shape of birds.
For over a thousand years, man has wanted to fly and to move from one point to another. Flying is the fastest mode of transportation, and people can move from city to city to carry out business and to look for new frontiers. Before man invented airplanes, he would rely on ships that would spend many days on the voyage.
Airplanes eradicated the problem of accessibility and made it faster and more convenient to do business. Birds fly so effortlessly because of the adaptations that they have. Birds have streamlined shapes so that when they are in flight the air can flow on their surface smoothly. Engineers used the shape of the birds as inspiration to model the planes (4). Most airplanes have a streamlined shape so that they do not face air resistance when they are in motion.
Secondly, birds have smooth and sometimes glossy surface. Birds groom their feathers with their beaks to makes sure that their body is smooth as they fly (2). Airplanes also have polished surfaces, and this prevents air resistance. Thirdly, birds use a concept where they fly in a V shape when they are in a flock. This mode of flying has enabled birds to travel greater distances. The V formation aids in collaboration, because as each bird flies, it adds more energy to the group, and they can keep up many miles in flight.
The birds keep changing positions and rotate their place in the stack, and this helps them go for long distances without tiring. There are some researchers from Stanford University who utilized this trait and concluded that if jets use the same trait, they can save on fuel. They purported that if jets fly in a V-shape and alternate their positions, they would manage to save their fuel up to 15%.
The concept of biomimicry has inspired the airplane wings. When birds want to take off, they raise their wings thereby creating a low pressure, and the body goes up through the process of ‘lift’. Airplanes use the same notion while taking off and landing. The scientists mimic the movements of the birds while modeling the wings. Airplane wings have taken the same shape as the birds’ wing and the taper outside. The two wings have different thicknesses as they move from the body.
There are some developments expected in future. Shaker Meguid, a medical engineer, said in 2008 that he aims to make changes to aerodynamics (1). He said that when birds are in the air, they extend their wings so far, and this helps them to stay high and to reduce the air drag. He also says that when birds what to move faster, they close their wings and planes can use the same concept that he calls ‘wing morphing’.
Human beings are always aiming to make new discoveries and alteration to their designs. Most modern planes have fixed wings that cannot change in angles. However, these planes have flaps on the wings that move up and down depending on where the plane is. Today, the only developments on a plane wing are the flaps and ailerons. There have been developments to make a wing that morphs. Scientists say that when a wing transforms, it will be easy to steer when it is in the air, and it will make flying easier. This revolutionizing of the airplane by biomimicry is something that in the works.
In conclusion, there have been many changes in airplane designs since innovation, development and in the future. Engineers have been drawing their ideas from nature, and they have been using biomimicry to inspire their designs. Human beings have been trying to fly since over a thousand years ago, and they even tried making planes, kites and flying from cliffs. Most of them fell and hurt themselves.
Leonardo da Vinci even wrote books and made some scientific expressions that made sense in later dates. Aerodynamics came up in 1909 with the first airplane coming to life (5). Airplanes began to use biomimicry as a concept. Engineers looked at birds and mimicked their wings, shape and mode of flying. After some time, men were able to form airplane wings and bodies that looked almost like a bird. The shape of birds helped to solve a problem that had existed in the world. Human beings needed a way to move from continent to continent, and he used the shape of an animal to inspire an invention that has solved problems in accessibility, trade, business, and transportation.
- Airplanes.com. (2008). Aircraft Flight Will Be Revolutionized By Biomimicry — Airplanes Channel: Aircraft, Jet Charter, Pilots, Heritage, Photos, Video, Events, News. Airplanes.com. Retrieved Retrieved 13th Jan 2018, from http://www.airplanes.com/blog/aircraft-flight-will-be-revolutionized-by-biomimicry/
- Benyus, J. (2002). Biomimicry. New York: Harper Perennial.
- Gunther, S. (2015). 7 amazing examples of biomimicry. MNN — Mother Nature Network. Retrieved 13th Jan 2018, from https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/wilderness-resources/photos/7-amazing-examples-of-biomimicry/copying-mother-nature
- Lakhtakia, A., & Martín-Palma, R. (2013). Engineered biomimicry. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
- Volstad, N., & Boks, C. (2012). On the use of Biomimicry as a Useful Tool for the Industrial Designer. Sustainable Development, 20(3), 189–199. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/sd.1535 200%;fonO��
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