Festo are once more impressing everybody with the unveiling of their new SmartBird (or robotic seagull) technology (see also their incredible Elephant-inspired robot arm and AirJelly). The new flying robot which is inspired by the herring gull was shown autonomously flying both indoors and outdoors.
This is what the company has to say about their creation,
SmartBird is an ultralight but powerful flight model with excellent aerodynamic qualities and extreme agility. With SmartBird, Festo has succeeded in deciphering the flight of birds. This bionic technology-
bearer, which is inspired by the herring gull, can start, fly and land autonomously – with no additional drive mechanism. Its wings not only beat up and down, but also twist at specific angles. This is made possible by an active articulated torsional drive, which in conjunction with a complex control system makes for unprecedented efficiency in flight operation. Festo has thus succeeded for the first time in realizing an energy-efficient technical adaptation of the natural model.
The engineering team behind this magnificent flying machine has achieved an incredible task minimizing the weight of the robotic bird while maximizing lift from its flapping winds. The robotic seagull is one meter long, weighs less than half a kilogram and boasts a 2-meter wingspan. To compare with the real bird, the European herring gull is a bit over half a meter long, has a wingspan up to 1.5 meters and weighs around one kilogram.
Festo have designed SmartBird as a platform for developing and testing new ideas in lightweight construction and aerodynamics that might transfer to the development and optimization of hybrid drive technologies and open the gates for new advances in automation. However, considering how realistic this robotic bird looks like, I wouldn’t be surprised that in a a few years these are not used by the military or law enforcement agencies for surveillance; but to get to that point, SmartBird will probably need to improve its range of autonomous operation and carry a sensor pack for data gathering both of which seem to be lacking in the current model.
At any rate, words can’t do this robot justice so enjoy the below video.