Imitation, they say, is the sincerest form of flattery. And we humans have been borrowing behaviors from and re-creating the physical characteristics of animals to solve some of our thorniest problems since before recorded history. We know, for instance, that our earliest ancestors learned valuable hunting tips by imitating nonhuman predators.
Today, we call this process biomimicry. And one of the creatures currently being studied is the owl. Aeronautics designers seeking to lessen an airplane’s noise level are looking at the bird’s feathers for potential applications.
Owls have the ability for silent flight because of several adaptations: serrated feathers on the leading edge of an owl’s wings allow air to pass through them, eliminating sound; tattered feathers on the back end of the wings help to break up sound waves; and legs covered in velvety, down feathers work to absorb any additional noise.
Watch this video from Dogwork.com of an owl coming toward the camera at 1,000 frames per second. If only our air travels could go so smoothly!