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Mr Nick Durston

Mr Nick Durston

Mr Nick Durston

Aerospace Engineering (PhD)

Area of research

Flight stability and control with morphing wings: bio-inspiration from bird flight


Flight stability and control with morphing wings: bio-inspiration from bird flight

How do gliding birds morph their wings, tail and body to control their flight?

How might the lessons learned guide the design of future morphing unmanned air vehicles operating at similar Reynolds Numbers?

These questions have developed into the following research areas in support of my PhD project:

1) The development of methods to accurately quantify the three-dimensional surface geometry of gliding birds in free-flight.

2) An accurate understanding of the aerodynamics of bird flight through the use of wind tunnel testing and computational fluid dynamics.

3) The use of aerodynamic models to support flight dynamics modelling of birds to understand how they use wing morphing for stability and control.



After completing my degree in Aerospace Engineering in 2011, I joined Rolls-Royce where I completed the graduate scheme and worked as a development engineer on the 'Environmentally Friendly Engine' programme. In 2014 I began my PhD at the University of Bristol on the flight dynamics of gliding birds of prey. I developed a photogrammetric rig, based on a multi-stereo arrangement, to measure the wings, body and tail of a freely gliding barn owl and peregrine falcon. I used the data to generate 3D-printed models that have been tested in a wind tunnel and used for computational aerodynamics analysis. By combining the aerodynamic measurements from freely flying birds with the inertia tensors measured using X-ray computed tomography (CT) scans of naturally deceased birds, I am able to quantify the static and dynamic stability of gliding birds. I have also been involved in development of my photogrammetric rig for use with high-speed cameras, allowing the temporal changes in wing shape to be measured at high frequency (1000Hz). 


  • Photogrammetry
  • Aerodynamics
  • Flight Dynamics
  • Ornithology

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