Military tech inspired by bird migration

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

bird magnetic
DARPA’s researching a bird’s natural ability to navigate Earth’s magnetic fields, so they can create more sensitive machines.

Some of the most futuristic and mind-boggling robotics tech created in the USA comes from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). They’ve made hypersonic drones that blast through the skies at blinding speeds, space planes, and galloping robo horses. So, when DARPA set its sights on studying bird migration, fans of the defense company began scratching their heads.

See, birds have evolved a unique ability to read the magnetic fields of Earth, giving them an accurate biological compass that enables them to navigate during migration. The reason birds migrate is to move from an area with low resources to a region with an abundance of goodies, which is often determined by the effects that seasons have on their environment. Other factors like disease, predators, and unhealthy climates can influence them to pack up and leave as well. That’s why their bodies developed such seemingly supernatural senses that can “see” the invisible magnetic waves through our planet.

So, DARPA believes if they can figure out the subtle ways that birds pick up on Earth’s vibrations, then they can make machines with equally sensitive sensors. That might seem silly, since machines are so different from these feathered critters, but scientists recently determined that the electrical activity from human cities can impair a bird’s ability to navigate. In other words, there’s definitely an exchange going on between manmade electromagnetic waves and natural biology! Now, DARPA is studying this connection more closely to create bio-inspired instruments and save money on otherwise ultra-expensive physics experiments.


Images courtesy of DARPA.