It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a robot bird (w/ video)

Mar 29, 2011 by Katie Gatto weblog

(PhysOrg.com) -- The great thing about robots is that they come in all shapes and sizes. Of course, that is also one of the creepiest things about robots too. You never know what is going to be a robot these days. There are people shaped robots, there are robots that are designed to explore the depths of space. That bird that you see on the building. It could be a robot too.

The robot bird, who has been given the to-the-point name of SmartBird, was shown off by robotics company Festo. Festo is a robotics company that seems to enjoy making bots that are shaped like animals. They have previously created both a robotic elephants trunk that is sensitive enough to grab items, and a set of penguins that have learned to avoid each other.

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The SmartBird design is based on a real life bird, a herring gull, who is able to take off, with the help of an on board motor. Then the wings begin to flap. Once they get beating at the right speed, the wings begin to imitate the way that real fly. The front edge of the wing twists, and generates thrust, and the tail acts the same way that a rudder would, steering the bird in different directions.

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a robot bird

Who knows, maybe this remote controlled gull will be the spy bot of the future. One, slightly more pragmatic goal may be to co-opt the wing technology to create what are known as 'stroke wing generators', which can use this same motion in order to generate power from water. So, this little bird may actually be green.

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Explore further: Telerobotics puts robot power at your fingertips

More information: www.festo.com/cms/en_corp/11369.htm
via IEEE

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User comments : 15

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bg1
5 / 5 (2) Mar 29, 2011
Wow. They finally did it. Congratulations to them. The military's gonna jump on this.
jwalkeriii
4 / 5 (2) Mar 29, 2011
Quite impressive!
OdieNewton
3 / 5 (2) Mar 29, 2011
The conspicuous-looking tail fin might give it away at closer range, but otherwise it's a novel idea.
SincerelyTwo
not rated yet Mar 29, 2011
This will be an epic tool in the spy trade, a down-side probably being that it's only well suited to a specific locale if being used as a 'spy plane'. However, a conventional spy plane could land in some area outside of a target locale, then release a few of these birds to collect data.

The birds could make their way back to the spy plane to transmit information, or broad cast an encrypted signal, perhaps preferring to fly back and broadcasting if there's an emergency; the bird being made handicapped or being shot down and falling from the sky without being able to recover.

I'm really into the idea of networked robots working together to collect and securely transmit information, hell we could even start sending robots to war in place of humans.
SincerelyTwo
5 / 5 (1) Mar 29, 2011
... Oh but more importantly, everything I said but in the context of the space program. I'm still dieing for us to send out mass army's of androids to all of the planets in the solar system to explore and map everything. :D

I wonder what the smallest possible size we can make a working sub-critical thorium based nuclear reactor, then use those as power sources for robots. :D

... my mind is starting to wander.
SmartK8
not rated yet Mar 29, 2011
Flying - owned. I still hope they'll stick to the old plane constructions though. Also a rare situation - that technological teaser is actually less impressive then the video of the technology itself.
Question
not rated yet Mar 29, 2011
What is the source of the power that flaps the wings?
SmartK8
not rated yet Mar 29, 2011
Question: I would guess that some kind of glow engine (plug).
plasticpower
not rated yet Mar 29, 2011
This is great for spying. Especially if they can make it land on things like light posts, etc. And if it's painted like a real bird. I would imagine this is probably one of the quietest flying machines ever invented.
soulman
5 / 5 (1) Mar 30, 2011
This is truly impressive. The dynamics of flight look almost perfectly natural, down to the way it can glide and ride the thermals (thus conserving power). They'll need to make the tail assembly a little more birdlike, but otherwise, very, very nice.

Things I would have liked to also see is take-offs and landings. Also, what range/flight time can be expected and whether or not it's as silent as a bird in operation.
tkn
not rated yet Mar 30, 2011
Lol.. Job Done. now all we need to do is to add one more feature. teach this brid how to create same birds on its own from all these materials readily avilable on our planet. Also we need to program its chip so that it improves its design for every next generation. Based on its Stored experiences from the previous generation. again on its own.. Then leave it somewhere in the jungle. And lets hope that because of evolution, after a million years this bird will become the greatest beast of all times.. on its own..
errr.... yeah... sounds VERY sensible.
HTK
not rated yet Mar 30, 2011
Great for military use. The potential enemies would have difficulties in identifying it from potential grenades... Nice.
Beard
5 / 5 (2) Mar 31, 2011
This isn't creepy, it's beautiful.
Newbeak
1 / 5 (1) Apr 02, 2011
I wonder what the payload is? It could be used to take out terrorists,say with a 1 lb C4 package.That would really freak them out if they have to watch out for funny looking birds in addition to Hellfire firing Predator drones..
Gregor
not rated yet Apr 03, 2011
That is one gorgeous model. I want to ride in an ornithopter. :D