July 2013 edition of IEEE's Spectrum* magazine had a really good article on a high tech study that is being
done on the manner in which an albatross manages to fly great distances and for long periods of time while rarely
needing to flap its wings. As shown in the thumbnail (and in the article), an albatross performs a series of rapid
climbs into very strong wind, turns, and dives leeward nearly to the water's surface, then repeats the process over
and over as it makes its way to its destination. The process is called dynamic soaring. R/C soaring pilots have been
doing the same sort of thing for a few years now. Obviously the albatross figured out how to fly like that long before
mankind was able to mimic it, but the researchers in the article seem to not have knowledge of the R/C soaring technique.
They are capturing albatrosses in their nests and attaching GPS-based sensors with data recorders to the birds' back
feathers and retrieving the units when the birds return to their nests. The ultimate purpose of the study is to gather
information that can be applied to the design of UAVs that can fly for extended periods and over great distances without
the need for recharging or refueling.
In searching for a little extra information, I ran across quite a bit
of study on the flight of the albatross for application to both model and full-size aircraft platforms. A couple good
videos are posted below along with hyperlinks to articles.