Mechanical bird flies just like the real thing

Automation company Festo has created a biomechatronic bird that can take off, fly and land simply by flapping its wings, with no other drive mechanism.

SmartBird is based on the herring gull, and its wings not only beat up and down, but also twist at specific angles, thanks to an active articulated torsional drive unit combined with a complex control system.

“The key to its understanding is a unique movement that distinguishes SmartBird from all previous mechanical flapping wing constructions and allows the ultra-lightweight, powerful flight model to take off, fly and land autonomously,” says the company.

With propulsion and lift achieved purely by the flapping of the wings, it has a power requirement of just 23 watts. It weighs 450 grams and has a wingspan of two meters.

Festo says it’s demonstrated an electromechanical efficiency factor of around 45 percent and an aerodynamic efficiency factor of up to 80 percent.

The operator can adjust the torsion control parameters in real time during flight, with the wing flapping and twisting sequence controlled to within just a few milliseconds, says Festo, optimizing airflow around the wings.

The SmartBird will be making its first public flight at the Hannover Fair, between April 4 and 8. There’s a video preview of it in flight, here.