OffBeat

What is the maximum airspeed velocity of a laden swallow?

Pigeon wearing a Cornell university bird backpack

Above: A pigeon sporting the latest in wearable tech from Cornell.

As all Monty Python fans know, the maximum airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow is a tricky, tricky question.*

But now, thanks to Cornell researchers, we may soon know the maximum velocity of a laden swallow. That’s because a team at the university’s Laboratory for Intelligent Machine Systems (LIMS) there has developed a tiny bird-packpack loaded with tech, as earlier reported by Cnet. The pack has an accelerometer, a wireless receiver, a memory module, and a microcontroller. To power the pack, a piezoelectric device “harvests” energy from the bird’s motion, generating up to 300 microwatts, which is just enough for the tiny kit.

The whole thing weighs less than 12 grams, which is the maximum that a 300-gram pigeon could carry, according to the Cornell team.

After lab tests, the backpack will track the migratory patterns of birds to see if these are changing due to climate change.

But we’re holding out hope that the Cornell crew will soon create a backpack small enough for a swallow. Then, perhaps, we’ll know the answer to the question in this headline.

* Answer: African or European