Hummingbird flight control and maneuverability in rainfall and turbulent winds
Victor M. Ortega
Victor M. Ortega at the Animal Flight Laboratory at UC Berkeley.

Victor M. Ortega was awarded the UC MEXUS-CONACYT Postdoctoral Fellowship for two consecutive years (2010 and 2011). In 2010, his project was honored with the UC MEXUS Monarch Award for the most outstanding postdoctoral research proposal. His groundbreaking research on flight control and maneuverability of hummingbirds and insects in complex air regimes is being conducted at the Animal Flight Laboratory at UC Berkeley led by Professor Robert Dudley.

Of particular interest to Ortega is how hummingbirds maintain stability and maneuverability of flight under challenging conditions such as rainfall and turbulent winds. In the paper "Aerial shaking performance of wet Anna's hummingbirds," co-authored with Dudley, Ortega reported that hummingbirds have the remarkable ability to shake their bodies rapidly and expel water drops from their plumage during flight (in much the same way that dogs shake to shed water from their fur) while still maintaining aerial stability. This behavior is captured on high-speed video below:

Additionally, his research explores how hummingbirds reduce flight costs and modify their body and tail posture to gain stability in "ground effect" (the aerodynamic gain resulted by the interaction among the wings, the vortex wake and the ground), as well as how they maintain control under turbulent windy conditions when extracting nectar from flowers. Through this work, he seeks to elucidate both empirical and theoretical principles of miniaturized flight control and maneuverability, providing novel insight into flight control mechanisms required for the design of micro-air vehicles.

Dr. Ortega can be reached at ornithopterus@gmail.com.

laser visualization
Smoke-laser visualization of an Anna's hummingbird in ground effect.