Gulls Flight Strategies to Help UAV Navigation?

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Learning from gulls can inform us on UAV flight path planning.

Researches looked at how gulls use the rising air generated by buildings to fly without flapping. They found that gulls actually alter their flight paths in certain wind conditions, to take advantage of updraughts occurring around a line of hotels.

According to, gulls may be adopting an energy-saving strategy that provides increased flight control in the face of cross-wind gusts.

This shows that man-made structures – even those as small as hotels a couple of stories high – can change bird flight paths by altering airflows.

This flight strategy may prove useful when planning flight paths for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, in urban landscapes.

Small-scale UAVs with fixed wings – like conventional aircraft – are much more strongly affected by gusts and turbulence than larger aircraft, as the wind speed is comparable to their airspeed. Flying at low altitudes in the highly complex flow field of urban environments, and in close proximity to terrain and buildings, is a significant challenge that most autonomous flight control systems have not been developed to cope with. As such, examining how birds of a similar size and weight overcome these challenges could help to inform UAV flight path planning and the development of flight control systems for flight in the same environments.