Navigating turbulent environments: the soaring flight of birds
This event is part of the Condensed Matter Theory Seminar Series.
Abstract: Thermals are ascending currents that typically extend from the ground up to the base of the clouds. Birds and gliders piggyback thermals to fly with a reduced expenditure of energy, e.g. during migration, and to extend their flying range. Flow in the thermals is highly turbulent, which poses the challenge of navigation in strongly fluctuating environments. We combine numerical simulations of atmospheric flow with reinforcement learning methods to identify strategies of navigation that can cope with and even exploit turbulent fluctuations. Specifically, we show how the strategies evolve as the level of turbulent fluctuations increase and we identify those sensorimotor cues that are effective at directing turbulent navigation.