Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) are the eyes in the skies for soldiers and disaster relief crews, but despite over a century of aviation progress, they still leave a lot to be desired and close quarters are very difficult for them to navigate on their own.

To make UAVs more practical in debris areas, DARPA’s Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program aims to develop algorithms that will allow autonomous fliers to negotiate obstacles as easily as a bird of prey.

Goshawks and other raptors put aviation engineers to shame. These nimble birds can fly with alarming speed through thickly wooded forests, dive through thickets, and come to a perfect landing on a branch in a maneuver that would leave a UAV a twisted pile of plastic and electronics at the first tree trunk. And the bird does it as a matter of routine.

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