Charles P. Lyman Professor of Biology
Neuromechanics and visuomotor control of flight: how birds navigate cluttered environments
Abstract: Animals must negotiate and move through complex environments. Birds do so when flying through woodlands and when foraging for food. Movement generates optic flow in the visual field induced by an animal’s own movement. Based on studies of hummingbirds, and pigeons flying through artificial ‘forests’ as well as outdoors in a natural setting, we explore how birds maneuver to turn and how hummingbirds and pigeons use visual cues of their surrounding environment to negotiate past obstacles. Visual feedback in response to optic flow guides flight stabilization and provides robust navigation in complex aerial environments. Control of head movement rather than eye motion is favored for stable gaze during flight in pigeons and hummingbirds. Studies of the neuromechanics and visuomotor control of flight can provide insight for bioinspired control designs of autonomous aerial vehicles.