The role of gaze in visually-guided behaviours in birds
Supervised by Prof Graham Taylor and Prof Tim Guilford
Birds exhibit exceptional aerial capabilities such as intercepting moving prey, negotiating complex arrays of objects without collisions, precision landing on a perch, as well as numerous other feats of flight agility that are beyond those of human-engineered aircraft. However, unlike drones which are currently controlled either under human guidance or using GPS waypoint tracking, bird flight is largely guided by their highly developed visual system. Given the limitations of GPS-based guidance systems current used by drones, bioinspired vision-based control systems are likely to play an essential role in future drone development. However, surprisingly little is known of exactly which visual cues birds attend to during flight and how these cues are implemented to guide flight maneuvers.
I aim to explore the conflict between wide-field image stabilization and target tracking in birds by exploiting new advances in sensing and data logging technology to elucidate the role of gaze strategies in visual guidance. Inertial measurement sensors - calibrated against the regional specialisations in the birdís visual field - will allow both the identification of the specific visual features to which the birds attend and give an insight into how the visual system is guided and stabilised during navigation and guidance. Understanding how birds direct their visual system will be essential to understanding how their visual system guides flight and will have important implications for the implementation of vision-based control algorithms in UAVs (drones).