Analysis of bird formations

Pete Seiler, Aniruddha Pant, Karl Hedrick

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Birds in V formations are frequently observed and two main hypothesis have emerged in the biology/ornithology literature to explain this particular geometry: (i) it offers aerodynamic advantages and (ii) it is used to improve visual communication. Both explanations require a bird to track its predecessor. Observations of flocks suggest that this task is difficult for birds in large formations. In this paper, we explain this phenomenon using a simple bird model and systems theory. This result has implications for the coordinated control of unmanned aerial vehicles. In particular, predecessor-following is an inherently poor strategy for formation flight.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)118-123
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the IEEE Conference on Decision and Control
StatePublished - 2002
Event41st IEEE Conference on Decision and Control - Las Vegas, NV, United States
Duration: Dec 10 2002Dec 13 2002


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