BionicSwifts, the new bionic swallows

BionicSwift, an ultralight bionic bird from Festo that flies like real birds

The German robot company Festo has so far developed a number of interesting prototype robots that resembled kangaroos, jellyfish, and more. One of the latest creations of this company is a bionic bird named BionicSwift, and it is truly impressive. The five artificial swallows can move in a coordinated and autonomous manner in a defined airspace by interacting with a radio-based indoor GPS.

When designing the robotic birds, the focus was on the use of lightweight structures, just like their biological role model. Because the same applies in engineering as it does in nature: the less weight there is to move, the lower the use of materials and energy consumption. And so, with a body length of 44.5 centimeters and a wingspan of 68 centimeters, the bionic birds weigh just 42 grams.

To execute the flight maneuvers as true to life as possible, the wings are modeled on the plumage of birds. The individual lamellae are made of an ultralight, flexible but very robust foam and lie on top of each other like shingles. Connected to a carbon quill, they are attached to the actual hand and arm wings as in the natural model.

During the wing upstroke, the individual lamellae fan out so that air can flow through the wing. This means that the birds need less force to pull the wing up. During the downstroke, the lamellae close up so that the birds can generate more power to fly.

Due to this close-to-nature replica of the wings, the BionicSwifts have a better flight profile than previous wing-beating drives.

The bird’s body contains the compact construction for the wing-flapping mechanism, the communication technology, the control components for wing flapping, and the elevator, the tail. A brushless motor, two servomotors, the battery, the gearbox as well as various circuit boards for radio, control, and localization are all installed in a very small space.

The intelligent interaction of motors and mechanics allows, for example, the frequency of the wing beat and the elevator’s angle of attack to be precisely adjusted for the various maneuvers.

Learn all about it here.

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