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Leonardo da Vinci would love this robo-bird

SmartBird by German-based Festo can fly, take off, and land autonomously. Good thing it doesn't like fouling statues.

Germany's Festo says it has "succeeded in deciphering the flight of birds." Festo

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.

Festo has done other graceful robo-creatures before including penguins and flying rays. Its flexible Bionic Handling Assistant is inspired by an elephant's trunk.

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)