Plenty of robots can fly — but none can fly like a real bird. That is, until Markus Fischer and his team at Festo built SmartBird, a large, lightweight robot, modeled on a seagull, that flies by flapping its wings.
Flying cameras, quadcopters, consumer drones – whatever you want to call them – these are some of the most exciting new technology inventions and they are quickly becoming mainstream and in response, our government is trying desperately to write new laws to increase safety and avoid deadly accidents in our skies.
But what happened to one of oldest dreams of mankind – to fly like a bird? Many, from Leonardo da Vinci to contemporary research teams, have tried to crack the “code” for the flight of birds, unsuccessfully.
Until recently, the engineers of the Bionic Learning Network established by Festo, a German technology company, developed a flight model of an artificial bird that’s capable of taking off and rising in the air by means of its flapping wings alone.
It’s called SmartBird. Markus Fischer is Festo’s head of corporate design, where he’s responsible for a wide array of initiatives. He established the Bionic Learning Network in 2006.
SmartBird is inspired by the herring gull. The wings not only beat up and down but twist like those of a real bird — and seeing it fly leaves no doubt: it’s a perfect technical imitation of the natural model, just bigger. It’s wingspan is almost two meters, while its carbon-fiber structure weighs only 450 grams.
Fischer says: “We learned from the birds how to move the wings, but also the need to be very energy efficient.”
So could this mean that in the near future earth-bound humans won’t be able to tell real birds flying overhead from robotic birds? Note: there’s no mention of a lockable/unlockable poop chute. Yet.