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How does the flying snake glide in the air? ‘It’s hard to believe’



Jake Socha is an expert on flying snakes. He uses detailed scientific terminology (such as “this big, swaying ribbon-shaped thing”) to describe his soaring quarry.

This is an appropriate description, but don’t be fooled. When a snake was launched from a tree in its Southeast Asian habitat and landed on another tree tens of feet away, these swings were not random.

Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics at Virginia Tech, Dr. Socha and colleagues published a study in Natural Physics on Monday that supports the hypothesis that air fluctuations (oscillations) are actually carefully coordinated and powerful processes , Can enhance aerodynamic stability. Snake in flight.

Dr. Socha said: “I will not say that all mysteries are solved, but our story is full of a lot.”

Over the years, Dr. Socha has been wondering whether these undulations are useful for flying, or whether these snakes just repeated the same movements they used to move on land and water in the air.

The researchers, including Isaac Yeaton, a doctorate in mechanical engineering, brought about six flying snakes into a four-story black box on the Virginia Tech campus. The cube can be used for student projects and experiments in the fields of art, science and engineering, and is equipped with a high-speed motion capture camera system. The researchers attached an infrared reflection tape to the snake, and erected the launch branch on the high tower, disguised as a tree on the landing tower. Then they let the snake fly.

Mr. Yedon was surprised to find that a snake fell into his arms while he was standing on the floor. He said they observed 150 flights of Chrysopelea paradisi in one week in 2015, one of five flying snakes.

Yedon said: “It’s hard to believe that a snake can do this.” “It’s a little scary. But a lot of complicated things have happened.”

The researchers collected the data and then created a three-dimensional computer model to show every angle of the snake in flight.

These models show that fluctuations include both vertical and horizontal waves. The waves flow in proportion, and the frequency of the vertical wave is twice that of the horizontal wave.

They also found that the rear end of the snake moved vertically up and down along the so-called dorsal-ventral axis, thereby increasing its up-down or pitch stability.

Yedon said: “Other animals will push up and down.” “We prove that the flying snake is up and down for stability.”

Using computer models, researchers can also eliminate some or all of the fluctuations for comparison. Without them, the snake would spin like a dangerous frisbee and fall dangerously.

The researchers said that the information provided by this study may have applications in robotics, especially in search and rescue. Because, as Dr. Socha might say, something swaying like a ribbon can easily enter a narrow space, just like in the rubble of an earthquake. They can fly from one rescue location to another rescue location.

He said: “I hope that before the end of my life, there is indeed a search and rescue robot based on flying snakes.”


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