Albatross's Effortless Flight Decoded—May Influence Future Planes
Birds can glide thousands of miles without flapping.
Through a method called dynamic soaring, the bird—with a wingspan of up to 12 feet (3.7 meters)—can glide thousands of miles without flapping.
Now, in a study that mixes biology with aeronautical engineering, researchers have come closer to figuring out how the birds ride the currents. And their findings may be used to innovate aircraft of the future.
(Related: "Albatrosses Fly Around World After Mating, Tags Reveal.")
German aerospace engineer Johannes Traugott and colleagues charted the albatross's nuanced flight pattern.
The bird flies close to the surface, they found, then turns suddenly into the wind to gain altitude. Once reaching nearly 50 feet (15 meters) high, the albatross turns leeward—being pushed downwind—and glides effortlessly until it's time to climb again.
The albatross has