Pigeon outperforms internet (updated)

In a brilliant example of old technology outdoing its replacement a homing pigeon successfully transferred 4GB of data faster than an ASDL internet connection. The experiment was done by an IT company in South Africa. Employees flew the pigeon between their offices 60 miles apart while simultaneously sending the data over the internet. The pigeon arrived after 2 hours 17 min, while the electronic transfer was only 4% complete.

For those interested in the breakdown:

The average speed of the pigeon (60 miles / 2.28 hours) = 26.3 mph

The average speed of the internet connection (4GB * 0.04 * 8 bits / 8208 seconds) = 156Kb/s

The average data transfer rate of a pigeon (4GB * 8 bits / 8208 seconds) = 3.89Mb/s

So unfortunately, it seems that pigeons will not be replacing the internet for most of us.

More Details:




I have come across a number of other interpretations of the data which I feel should be addressed. Firstly, there are some inconsistencies in the used data for the length of the journey and the distance. The distance ranges from 80km (49.7 Miles) to 60 Miles. One site claimed that it was between Unlimited IT\’s call centre in Durban and their head office in Johannesburg a distance of over 300 miles.

There is some variation in the quoted time although the figure of 2hr 6min 57sec is often quoted, and other numbers appear to be rounded versions.

Secondly there is some question about what was measured for example in this article believes that only 68 minutes of the transfer was the flight and the rest was the transferring the data from the USB stick to the computer. This would require the pigeon to fly at nearly 60mph which seems very unrealistic, indeed this article from the New York Times suggest that top speed for pigeons is around 38 mph with a tail wind.

In summary, I stick by my original analysis as it seems to be the closest to the truth, although without any 1st hand evidence this is likely to end up as just another urban legend.

Update 2

I have come across this article, which contains much more detail.

Unlimited are a finance group not an IT group as previously stated, their head office is in Hillcrest and the call centre is in Howick a distance of about 65km (41 miles). Also worth noting that the data was already on the USB stick at the start of the race, and that it took 26 min to transfer the data. The flight took 2 hours 6 min 57 seconds.

Thus revised figures are:

The average speed of the pigeon (41 miles / 2.28 hours) = 18.0 mph

The average speed of the internet connection (4GB * 0.04 * 8 bits / 7617 seconds) = 168Kb/s

The average data transfer rate of a pigeon plus USB transfer (4GB * 8 bits / 7617+1560×2 seconds) = 2.98Mb/s

And so it seems my original conclusion stands, the pigeon is fast but not that fast.


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