Credit: Willem Hoebink & Xander van der Sar

Welcome at Stanford's BIRD lab! 
[Bio-Inspired Research & Design]

How do birds morph their body to maximize flight control and performance? | Credit: Jean Francois Cornuet

Why can animals fly effortless through environments that are visually and aerodynamically cluttered? | Credit: Henk Jan Jansen

What enables birds to turn on a dime? | Credit: David Lentink & Jan Wouter Kruyt

How does massive sensory integration enable animals to be super maneuverable? | Credit Joris Schaap & Emile van Wijk

Which aerodynamic mechanisms enable even the simplest organisms to fly stably in turbulence? | Credit: David Lentink

Lab Messages


Honorable mention for best student talk

Congrats to Rivers Ingersoll for receiving an Honorable Mention for his excellent talk in the Biomechanics student competition at  SICB 2018  In a pixel-perfect talk he shared the outcomes of his unique field study of 20 hummingbird and ...

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Steven Vogel Young Investigator Award

David received the inaugural Steven Vogel Young Investigator Award from the journal Bioinspiration & Biomimetics at the SICB conference in San Francisco. “Steven Vogel was a gifted scientist and communicator and a warm and engaging person. ...

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Adaptive control of turbulence intensity

Dan and Yous discovered that a simple adaptive algorithm with cheap, low resolution sensors can control turbulence intensity, which they published in J. Roy. Soc. Interface. Remarkably, the algorithm converged faster with low resolution sensors tha...

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TEDx Stanford

David Lentink | Drones of a Feather

In a new TEDxStanford talk David showcases the exciting multidisciplinary research and design philosophy of our lab based on the latest bird and robot research. The presentation includes amazing feats of bird flight, birds flying with miniature laser goggles, flapping robot wings that morph automatically, and it explains our new aerodynamic force platform that directly measures the lift force generated by birds in free flight for the very first time. In summary it truly is an exciting time to invent Drones of a Feather by unlocking the magic of bird flight together.

TEDx Amsterdam

David Lentink | Bio-inspired Flight

Nature is a great source of inspiration; ever since we first saw animals fly we dreamed of flight. Our dream came true with the invention of the airplane by Lilienthal & the Wright Brothers, who were inspired by birds a century ago. 100 years is, however, extremely recent
on an evolutionary time scale — we can still learn from birds. Currently there is a new wave of bio-inspired innovation that is revolutionizing the design of micro flying robots. Professor Lentink has worked for several years with collaborators and students to solve key biological questions that enable the design of innovative flying robots. In his TEDx talk Lentink explains the ideas that made it all possible.


Advanced Wind Tunnel | Technology

We build a one-of-a-kind wind tunnel for birds to find inspiration for designing drones. The wind tunnel has very low turbulence (<0.03%) and is acoustically optimized. The test section is 1.0 x 0.8m and the wind speed is 0 - 50 m/s. The facility includes a closed-loop turbulence generation system and high-speed stereo fluoroscopes (XROMM). We also have Tomographic PIV, a 1024 microphone array, a 14 camera Motion Capture system, twenty 6-axis load cells and other instruments. The wind tunnel opening  was featured by Science Magazine BBC and others. Details can be found in our RSOS paper and check out the construction in this time-lapse


Hummingbird forces | Instruments

How does a hummingbird stay afloat in air? To answer this question, Rivers Ingersoll developed a new Aerodynamic Force Platform. It’s capable of resolving the tiny aerodynamic pressure forces a hummingbird generates to lift its body weight of just 4 grams. Remarkably, his instrument is able to resolve the pressure forces the hummingbird generates within a single wingbeat, which only lasts 25 milliseconds. For this he had to measure nanometer displacements in the field, creating an instrument that will even record the pressure fluctuations of an airplane flying over the field station. His unique instrument got featured in National Geographic and this video. 

NYT Video

How Birds Lift Weight | Innovation

The lab published its invention of the first Aerodynamic Force Platform (AFP) in Interface, which has been featured in Nature as Research Highlight, with stories in The EconomistNew Scientist, and NYT (left). The publication presents theory, validation, and a demonstration of the first nonintrusive in vivo method to measure aerodynamic force directly in freely flying animals and drones. It is based on the conservation of momentum and Newton's third law, which we applied in an elegant way. The physical realization of this invention required the advanced engineering typical for Stanford's department of Mechanical Engineering.  

NYT Video

Bird Laser Goggles | Aerodynamics

To test three popular models that predict the lift generated by flying animals, Eric Gutierrez trained birds to fly voluntary wearing custom 3D printed laser safety goggles with lenses salvaged from our own laser safety goggles. Using a high-speed laser and four cameras at 1,000 frames per second, he studied the vortices birds generate to stay in the air. His research sheds light on how the unexpected breakdown of tip vortices limits the ability of models to predict lift in animal flight. The work published in Bioinspiration & Biomimetics got featured by the Science homepageThe New York TimesThe TimesPopular Science & Popular Mechanics as well as many other media.

AAAS Video

Arboreal flight | Dinosaurs

We see birds hop and fly effortless between tree branches every day, something no robot can, how they do it? Diana Chin discovered that parrotlets choose their take-off angle to minimize the mechanical energy needed to fly between branches. She determined this using instrumented perches, an Aerodynamic Force Platform, high-speed cameras and modeling. She also found that dinosaurs may have used partial wingbeats with protowings to extend their long-jumps between branches. The insights shows how to optimize bimodal robots for arboreal environments. The publication in Science Advances was covered by Scientific American Popular Science and New Scientist.

Stanford News

Aerial Robot Design | Course

One of the classes taught by David Lentink is ME 171E / 271E Aerial Robot Design. It is a result-focused introduction to the design of winged aerial robots capable of vertical takeoff and landing for a wide range of applications. Students learn how to ideate specific aerial robot applications and make an appropriate design from scratch that meets mission requirements. The hands-on lab experience includes prototyping the aerial robot mission, to inform system design, by building and flying autonomous quadcopters. This lab was developed with help from students in the Lentink lab, of which Eric Chang is featured in the Stanford News video and Article.

CNN Feature

The Art of Movement | Bird Flight

Click this link to see The Art of Movement . CNN visited the lab in September 2013 to learn more about how we study bird flight as an inspiration for developing flying robots. The crew visited us on campus and at our field station for two days. Since we just started, it was great to see that many lab members were able to demonstrate their bird flight research and robot development. The excellent organization by several first year graduate lab members promises a wonderful grand opening of our new bird wind tunnel facility.