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. A soaring demo fresh from TEDGlobal
Innovation at its best.”It is a dream of mankind to fly like a bird,” designer Markus Fischer said who led the team at Festo that developed the first ultralight artificial bird capable of flying like a real bird.
“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.
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. (Even birds think so.) Its wingspan is almost two meters, while its carbon-fiber structure weighs only 450 grams.
Working: 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.
Markus Fischer, who heads up corporate design for a German company called Festo, has demonstrated his new invention he calls the “Smart Bird”. It is an ultra-light weight robot created in the likeness of a seagull that flaps its wings and can fly through the air under its own power with grace.
It’s a spectacle to behold, for sure, and as you can see in the video below, it was able to elicit quite a reaction from the mesmerized crowd.
But there’s one thing I really want to know: When do we get “Smart Birds” big enough for people to fit in?
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.