About us

We are an internationally-leading biomechanics research team specialising in the dynamics, guidance, and control of flight. Based in the Department of Zoology, our work combines fundamental research on animal flight with a strong and growing emphasis on applications to bio-inspired engineering. We seek to understand the mechanisms underpinning the biological systems that we study with the same depth and rigour as an engineer developing a technical system. More ambitiously, we aim to use this insight to uncover the functional “design” principles that emerge evolutionarily through the interaction of natural selection and physical constraint.

Our applied goal is to identify new sensing algorithms, new control architectures, and new hardware solutions to guide the design of new technologies. More fundamentally we aim to understand – and ultimately predict – how these same organizational principles and algorithms emerge from the interaction of physics and physiology that characterizes all life. We achieve this by combining state-of-the-art experimental facilities, ground-breaking imaging techniques, and technically challenging fieldwork with advanced mathematical theory in a diverse, inter-disciplinary research programme.

The Oxford Flight Group is led by Professor Graham Taylor. Our first spinout company, Animal Dynamics, is led by Professor Adrian Thomas.

News

Our work features regularly in online, broadcast, and print media. A feed of recent stories follows below, together with news of recent activities and upcoming opportunities.

Falcons Are as Fast as Racecars. Pity their Poor Prey.

Washington Post, USA. 12 April 2018. Peregrine falcons, apex predators that hunt near rock cliffs and skyscrapers, strike like a stock market crash: fast and hard. The birds fly to great heights, then tuck their wings and plummet.... [read on]

Research Reveals Exactly Why Peregrine Falcons Are so Deadly

National Audubon Society, USA. 13 April 2018. When it comes to hunting on the fly, nothing beats the Peregrine Falcon. By folding its wings in to minimize drag, the boomerang-shaped birds can hurtle thousands of feet through the air at speeds of close to 200 miles per hour... [read on]

Peregrine Falcons Attack Like Missiles to Grab Prey Midair, Scientists Find

National Public Radio, USA. 4 December 2017. Peregrine falcons, known for making spectacular dives to snatch smaller birds midair, conduct their aerial assaults in much the same way that military missiles hit moving targets... [read on]

Peregrine Falcon Hunting Behaviour and Drone-Hunting Drones

BBC World Service, UK. 7 December 2017. By analysing how a peregrine falcon chases its prey in flight, scientists have discovered that they track their prey in the same way as tracking missiles lock on to their target. This clever way of hunting on the wing is now being copied and applied to drone technology, as a way of making drone-hunting drones to try and thwart the growing number of crimes committed by these flying machines... [listen here]

Oxford Scientists Just Solved the Mystery of How Mosquitos Fly Using Super High-Speed Cameras

Business Insider, UK. 19 April 2017. Scientists have solved the mystery of mosquito flight using super high-speed cameras and computer analysis to understand the unique mechanisms the insect uses to stay airborne... [read on]

Outreach

We run a wide-ranging programme of outreach activities in addition to our work with the media. Professor Taylor works with the Oxford University Museum of Natural History to reach out to teenagers and children locally. Our lab also hosts visits from Oxford’s UNIQ programme, which aims to help students studying at UK state schools and colleges to take informed decisions about higher education by offering hand-on experiences of study and research. Team member Inés Dawson hosts her Draw Curiosity website and YouTube video channel to stimulate and entertain curiosity with interesting science. We are now working to develop a range of content and resources for schools on flight, biomechanics, and bio-inspired technologies, which we will release regularly through our blog. Our lab at the John Krebs Field Station, Wytham, is home to our flying team of Harris' Hawks – Drogon, Rhaegal, Toothless, and Ruby. We welcome visits from schools and youth groups by arrangement through our contact page.