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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)