The team, led by Eric Gutierrez, wanted to test if the three prevailing theories about how birds fly are correct. To visualize how a bird lifts off and flies, they created a “laser sheet,” a spray of aerosol particles illuminated with lasers, as you can see in the video. They then had Obi, the parrot you see wearing goggles, fly back and forth across the laser sheet. (Obi’s actually a parrotlet, which is the second smallest parrot species.)
The laser sheet was nontoxic, but lasers might harm Obi’s eyes, so the scientists created goggles for Obi, using human laser safety lens, 3D-printed sockets and veterinary tape.
After observing and analyzing Obi’s flight, the team found that there are flaws with all three prevailing theories. The next stage of research calls for a new model to explain avian flight.