Festo’s biomechatronic bird flies and lands autonomously

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A research team at Festo has developed SmartBird, a biomechatronic bird that can take off, fly and land autonomously.

Festo claims that SmartBird flies, glides and moves through the air like its counterpart in nature — the herring gull — with no additional drive mechanism.

The aim of the SmartBird project was to achieve an overall structure that is efficient in terms of resource and energy consumption, with minimal overall weight, in conjunction with the functional integration of propulsion and lift in the wings and a flight control unit in the torso and tail regions.

Further requirements were excellent aerodynamics, high power density for propulsion and maximum agility for the flying craft.

The propulsion and lift, as intended, are achieved solely by the flapping of the wings and have a power requirement of around 23W. Its wings can move up and down and twist at specific angles, which is made possible by an active articulated torsional drive unit.

SmartBird has a total weight of around 450g and a wingspan of 2m. Measurements are said to have demonstrated an electromechanical efficiency factor of around 45 per cent and an aerodynamic efficiency factor of up to 80 per cent.

Onboard electronics ensure precise wing control. In addition, the torsion control parameters can be adjusted and optimised in real time during flight.

Similarly, the wing flapping and twisting sequence is controlled to within only a few milliseconds and results in optimum airflow around the wings.

Festo’s SmartBird will be making its first public flight at the 2011 Hannover Fair next week.