The Latest Innovation in Drone Technology: Taxidermy Birds

If you see a flock with a bird that doesn't look quite right, it might be a robot

A taxidermy bird. Specimens like this are now being used in drones to track real birds.
Taxidermy: it's not just for museums and hunting lodges anymore.
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Let’s say that you’re a scientist studying the lives of birds. You’d like to be able to use drones to get as close to birds in their natural habitat as you can, but for eminently understandable reasons, birds don’t react well to bizarre flying contraptions in their personal space. If only there was something you could use that looked more like birds — like, say, the taxidermied remains of other birds.

No, this is not the premise of an upcoming science fiction-horror hybrid; M3gan for the birdwatching set. Instead, it’s something that one New Mexico-based scientist is developing. And once you get past the “Wait, they’re using taxidermy birds to make drones?” factor, it’s hard to deny the logic behind this project.

The Pandemic Caused Birds to Change Their Songs
A new study takes us back to early 2020

Euronews has more details on the science and engineering behind this. Their article follows the work of New Mexico Tech professor Mostafa Hassanalian, PhD, whose work led him to create drones that stay aloft by flapping their wings at high speeds — and which make use of taxidermy birds.

“Now we can use re-engineered birds and dead birds and make them as a drone,” Hassanalian told Euronews. “And the only thing that we need to provide them to make them alive, is to basically design an attrition mechanism, put in their body, and everything is there.”

The goals of the project involve keeping an eye on birds as they migrate. Hassanalian spoke about wanting to discover the ways “birds manage energy between themselves” — something that could benefit human aviation.Taxidermy and drones might not seem like interconnected branches of technology, and yet here we are.

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.