Okay, those new 'dead bird' drone designs are utterly terrifying

With mysterious unmanned craft occupying the headlines of late, you might think the last thing we need are drones that are harder to detect. It's been suggested that spy devices have been flying all over the place for years with nobody noticing, so what hope would there be if they looked like something you'd expect to see in the sky – birds, for example?

And yet it turns out that scientists are working on a way to create just that kind of nightmare scenario. Researchers at New Mexico Tech disguising unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) using part of taxidermised birds. Big white balloons look hugely conspicuous in comparison. Turns out real life is just as creepy as the metaverse.

As shown in the video above, a team of scientists led by assistant professor of mechanical engineering Mostafa Hassanalian has actually built several test drones using parts of real dead birds. The pieces aren't all from same bird. The difficultly in assembling the devices led the team to combine parts from different animals – the head from one, wings from another to create hybrid robot creatures for a series of flight tests. 

According to the results published on the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics SciTech Forum, the avian UAVs can hover and glide but they can't quite pass for real birds (at least not yet) because their movement looks unnatural. Researchers say they'll require greater wing articulation to make it into the wild, but they're working on that. The team also plans to give them legs so the birds can perch and save on battery while they spy.

The primary objective is not necessarily military. One big potential is to closely but discreetly observe wildlife... but that sounds a little like China's claim that it's balloons are for monitoring the weather. A novel solution to keeping track of bird populations is welcome, but will remind many people of the autonomous drone insects from the Black Mirror episode Hated in the Nation. As a bit of a birdwatcher, I'm used to spying on birds. Now it seems the tables may be turned.

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Joseph Foley

Joe is a regular freelance journalist and editor at Creative Bloq. He writes news and features, updates buying guides and keeps track of the best equipment for creatives, from monitors to accessories and office supplies. A writer and translator, he also works as a project manager at London and Buenos Aires-based design and branding agency Hermana Creatives, where he manages a team of designers, photographers and video editors who specialise in producing photography, video content, graphic design and collaterals for the hospitality sector. He enjoys photography, particularly nature photography, wellness and he dances Argentine tango.