“The prey drone” is capable of performing aerial maneuvers that mimic bird flight. With safety guards and an on-board camera, it’s the perfect device to film a peregrine that’s been trained to chase it.
This Drone Mimics Bird Flight
Published: December 3, 2018
Narrator: Meet the “prey drone,” designed by gadget guru Chris Watts. It’s capable of performing aerial maneuvers that mimic bird flight. With safety guards and an on-board camera, it’s the perfect device to film a peregrine in hot pursuit.
For the battle arena: a secluded valley in the U.K.’s Lake District.
Lloyd Buck: So are you set?
Chris Watts: I’m all set, yeah.
Watts: Okay. Going up now?
Buck: Yeah, yeah.
Watts: Are you happy?
Narrator: It’s the prey drone…
Buck: Get your position.
Narrator: …against Moses, Lloyd’s four-year-old peregrine.
Buck: So, start going away.
Watts: Let’s go.
Buck: Go, go, go, go!
Go, my boy.
Graham Martin: Bird’s gone, bird’s gone.
Watts: Wow, look at that, straight after it.
Buck: Not yet, stay as you are, stay are you are, stay as you are. Climb, climb, climb, climb, climb, climb!
Watts: Okay. Shall I come back down?
Buck: No, no. Hold your height. Hold your height. Hold it there. Hold it there.
Dive, dive, dive, dive, dive!
Narrator: No matter what the prey drone tries, the result is the same…
Watts: Oh, yeah, I felt that.
Narrator: …every time.
Buck: That’s it. I think he got it then.
Martin: Just like that. Did you see that?
Narrator: So, how does Moses pull off a perfect strike?
His long, pointed wings offer little drag, allowing him to fly faster, helping him to close in. But he rarely chases directly after the drone. Instead he aims his attack ahead of the drone’s current position. Recent research suggests that in order to intercept his target, as Moses approaches the drone, he reacts to its movements to keep it in his line of sight. He can then close in to intercept the flight path of his quarry.
World’s Fastest Animal
Produced by: Sophie Meyjes & Lucy Smith
Directed by: Simon Baxter
Digital Production: Olivia Schmidt
© WGBH Educational Foundation 2018