Beware the guided missiles over Brum.
Byline: JOHN VON RADOWITZ News Reporter email@example.com
new study reveals how falcons swoop for kill BIRMINGHAM'S majestic peregrine falcons use breathing-takingly natural "guided missile technology" when they swoop down for a kill, scientists have found.
Now lessons from the birds' control strategy are set to aid the development of robot interceptors designed to bring down rogue drones.
Both Fort Dunlop at Castle Bromwich and the 500ft high BT Tower in the city centre are home to peregrine falcons.
A national study has found peregrine falcons attack their prey on the wing as if they were air-to-air guided missiles.
For the study, researchers obtained a bird's eye view of falcons in flight using miniature video cameras attached to the raptors' backs.
They also analysed flight patterns using GPS tracking devices carried by the birds.
The video recordings also showed opportunistic attacks on live targets, including five passes at a duck that was eventually forced to land.
Lead investigator Professor Graham Taylor, from Oxford University's Department of Zoology, said: "Falcons are classic aerial predators, synonymous with agility and speed.
"Our GPS tracks and on-board videos show how peregrine falcons intercept moving targets that don't want to be caught. Remarkably, it turns out that they do this in a similar way to most guided missiles.
"Our next step is to apply this research to designing a new kind of visually guided drone, able to remove rogue drones safely from the vicinity of airports, prisons and other no-fly zones."
The scientists were surprised to find that the peregrine falcon's "terminal attack" trajectory followed a mathematical guidance law used to steer homing missiles to their targets. The study was conducted in the Black Mountains of southeast Wales.
Co-author Dr Caroline Brighton, also from Oxford University, said: "It was very exciting to study these sleek, formidable aerial predators, and to watch them as they chased down our manoeuvring lure towed behind a small remotecontrolled airplane - then, through our computer modelling, to reveal the secret of their attack strategy."
A small number peregrine falcons have been spotted at both Fort Dunlop and the concrete telecoms tower landmark, after almost being wiped from these shores by the blight of DDT pesticide.
Left, in-flight video from the study and right, two peregrine falcon chicks on a window ledge at Birmingham's Fort Dunlop