Germany's Festo wowed the audience at TEDGlobal 2011 in Scotland recently by showing off its flying robot seagull.
The bird is made of carbon fiber and polyurethane foam, weighs about 1 pound, and has a wingspan of some 6.5 feet.
It contains a microcontroller, four servo drives, and a lithium polymer battery. Its wings move in a split-stage helical transmission, and their positions are monitored with sensors that relay data to ground operators via a radio link.
Leonardo da Vinci would love this robo-bird
The audience at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre applauded when the gull was hand-launched, tentatively flapping its wings and then beating the air to circle above the auditorium.
When it obediently returned to its handlers, it got a standing ovation, and again after a second demonstration. Check it out in the video below.
"It is a dream of mankind to fly like a bird," designer Markus Fischer said in his presentation, during which he hand-cranked a SmartBird to show how it flaps its wings. He added the company built it to learn about air flow phenomena and lightweight, energy-efficient models.
The SmartBird is larger than a real herring gull, and it remains to be seen whetehr Festo can shrink it to make it less conspicuous.
(Via IEEE Spectrum)