Pre-Historic Inspiration

Who would have thought that an ancient creature that once soared through the skies approximately two hundred and twenty million years ago would be able to influence the future? The natural features that made Pterodactyls the stealthy flying predators of the earth are the inspiration behind the creation of an aircraft that is beyond imagination. The Pterodactyl might not be around to compare the new aircraft to, but if their legendary abilities are anything to go by, the futuristic aircraft will most certainly be turning heads.

The Pterodactyl is not really classified as a dinosaur, but as a flying reptile. Their wingspan has been known to vary, but was able to grow up to lengths of over forty feet. This magnificent wingspan assisted them in covering great distances over sea and land, and their more than spectacular eyesight aided them when looking for prey. Pterodactyls had slender necks, a light frame and their wings were nothing more than tight skin. But its most distinctive feature was the crest that was located on their heads and was used for steering, in other words, a rudder.

Richard Lind, an aerospace engineer with the University of Florida, has teamed up with Sankar Chatterjee, from the Texas Tech University, to create a robotic aircraft based on the Pterodactyl. The crest is a significant feature of this ancient flying reptile, as it enabled it to execute sharp and agile movements in the air, while the aircraft we are accustomed to use their tailfins as stabilizers. Moving a modern plane’s tailfin does assist it to turn, however the movement is slow and smooth, unlike that of the Pterodactyl.

Building an aircraft with a head crest will be a first for the aviation industry, and as with other aircraft that have been designed and tested and were built according to nature’s design, the new aircraft will also have to rely on computer or remote control, as Chatterjee and Lind are unsure if a human will be able to control the rapid flight. If the head crest is successful, the next step would be to see if an aircraft can function by moving the head only to change direction. This new innovation is a positive experiment for aviation, as it assists the industry in developing and exploring new frontiers. It might not be long before the Pterodactyl takes to the skies once again.