Video: feathers not included

October 25, 2018, University of Maryland

Inspired by the beauty and flying ability of birds, Leonardo da Vinci strived centuries ago to create a human-powered flapping-wing flying machine. But his designs, which da Vinci explored in his Codex on the Flight of Birds, were never developed in any practical way. Even today, mimicking bird flight still presents challenges due to the physiological complexity of a bird's flapping wings.

For years, researchers at the University of Maryland's A. James Clark School of Engineering have been moving ever closer to imitating with Robo Raven, the first bird-inspired (UAV) that has successfully flown with independent wing control.

Lena Johnson ('14, M.S. '16), who is pursuing her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, is working on the current iteration of the aerodynamic robotic bird, known as Robo Raven V. The doctoral student believes Robo Raven gives her a platform to make the impossible possible by designing a UAV with greater controllability and likelihood of sustained wing-powered flight than other similar vehicles.

Johnson hopes that this version's expanded maneuverability, developed takeoff capability, and added propellers for thrust production will aid the UAV in areas she's researching, such as ecological monitoring and disaster response.

Credit: University of Maryland

Johnson also wants to share her work on Robo Raven in local schools and libraries in hopes of inspiring other young students that they, too, can make the impossible possible through engineering.

"There are so many kids in disadvantaged communities who have never even dreamed of becoming an engineer. It takes just one role model or exposure through an after-school robotics program to turn on that light of possibility," says Johnson.

Explore further: Robo Raven: Robotic bird that harvests solar energy (w/ video)

Related Stories

Leonardo da Vinci's take on dynamic soaring

October 10, 2018

Although Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) is known to have studied bird flight, few people realise that he was the first to document flight maneuvers, now called dynamic soaring. Birds use these maneuvers to extract energy from ...

Early birds had an old-school version of wings

November 21, 2012

In comparison to modern birds, the prehistoric Archaeopteryx and bird-like dinosaurs before them had a more primitive version of a wing. The findings, reported on November 21 in Current Biology, lend support to the notion ...

The first wireless flying robotic insect takes off

May 15, 2018

Insect-sized flying robots could help with time-consuming tasks like surveying crop growth on large farms or sniffing out gas leaks. These robots soar by fluttering tiny wings because they are too small to use propellers, ...

Recommended for you

A quantum magnet with a topological twist

February 22, 2019

Taking their name from an intricate Japanese basket pattern, kagome magnets are thought to have electronic properties that could be valuable for future quantum devices and applications. Theories predict that some electrons ...

Good dog? Bad dog? Their personalities can change

February 22, 2019

When dog-parents spend extra time scratching their dogs' bellies, take their dogs out for long walks and games of fetch, or even when they feel constant frustration over their dogs' naughty chewing habits, they are gradually ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.