Bird flight has fascinated mankind for centuries. German-based Festo now says it has deciphered it by building a robot seagull that flies like the real thing.
SmartBird is inspired by the herring gull and can take off by flapping its wings, and flying and landing autonomously. It moves by flapping and twisting its wings like a gull, and turns its head to steer--see the video below.
Built of carbon fiber and polyurethane foam, SmartBird weighs about 1 pound and has a wingspan of some 6.5 feet.
Though its inner structure recalls the flying machines of Leonardo da Vinci, it also houses a microcontroller, four servo drives, and a lithium polymer battery.
The wings are driven with an exterior rotor motor through a two-stage helical transmission, and the wing positions are monitored with sensors that relay data to ground operators via a radio link.
It says SmartBird, part of its Bionic Learning Network, is all about adapting a natural principle to technology, as well as energy efficiency and conservation of resources.
At the least, it's an improvement on the Falco airport bird hunter. It would also make a pretty nifty toy, especially if it could perch on trees and spy on people.
(Via IEEE Spectrum)