Scientists find that budgies hold the key to avoiding aircraft collisions
Aircraft-safety researchers from the University of Queensland have welcomed some highly-qualified aviation experts into their ranks - a group of budgerigars, named Drongo, Nemo, Titan, Milkyway, Blackhole, Tian and Rama.
In their quest to develop automated anti-collision systems for aircraft, the Australian research team studied the mid-air antics of 10 budgies - and found that they never, ever crash in flight.
The researchers released the budgies into a tunnel one pair at a time, recording their movements on high-speed cameras as the birds flew towards each other.
The birds completed the 'collision course' more than 100 times - and did not strike each other once.
The secret? The birds always veered right, and rarely flew at the same height.
"Both strategies (veering right and separated altitudes) suggest simple rules by which collisions can be avoided in head-on encounters by two agents, be they animals or machines," the study found.
"The findings are potentially applicable to the design of guidance algorithms for automated collision avoidance on aircraft," the authors concluded.
Professor Mandyam Srinivasan, who led the investigation, said that the birds' tactics - formed over the 150 million-year evolution of natural flight - had vast implications for developing anti-collision systems in aircraft.
"Birds must have been under strong evolutionary pressure to establish basic rules and strategies to minimise the risk of collision in advance," he said.
"But no previous studies have ever examined what happens when two birds fly towards each other.
"Our modelling has shown that birds always veer right and sometimes they change their altitude as well, according to some pre-set preference."
The study, which was published in the 'Plos One' academic journal, was funded by Boeing Defence Australia and the Australian Research Council. (© Daily Telegraph, London)