Don't Look Up: Flying Snakes Could Provide Key to New Technology

VIDEO: Dr. Jake Socha studies gliding snakes for application in manmade vehicles.
WATCH The Conversation: Flying Snakes?

It's a sight most people don't see every day -- a majestic snake wriggling furiously as it glides through the air.

But flying snakes do exist and one scientist is hoping to tap their power for use in futuristic vehicles and robots.

Virginia Tech University Biochemist Jake Socha called the paradise tree snake a "thing of beauty."

"You'd be lucky to see this," he said.

Native to southeast Asia, the snake "jumps for a takeoff" and then flattens out the body like a cobra. As they gain speed, they undulate to prolong their time in the air.

"It really kind of looks like the snake is swimming through the air," Socha said.

Socha said he's hoping that someday, the same movement will be used to design robots that could climb through rubble or slither into cracks during a search and rescue mission. The same movement, he said, could also possibly go into creating a robotic device that could soar over bodies of water, such as rivers or lakes, to reach places humans can't.

Now enamored with his test subjects, who are mildly venomous, Socha said he first heard about them from another professor, also intrigued with their ability to fly.

"He said very casually to me, 'Oh by the way there's this snake and it's said to move through the air and no one knows much about it,'" he said. "And that was it."

Jake Socha spoke with ABC's Jeremy Hubbard for today's Conversation. We hope you'll watch to learn more.

Watch more "Conversation" videos here.

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