Festo's robo-seagull gets standing O at TED

Attendees at TED in Scotland laud a robot seagull that flies like the real thing.

"We try to mimic nature," says designer Markus Fischer of the SmartBird, based on a herring gull. TED

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.

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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)


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