The SmartBird is designed by leading-edge German company Festo. SmartBird is a remarkable and amazing marriage between Biology and Machine.
One of the most enduring of engineering challenges, a call that once inspired the genius of Leonardo Da Vinci, has been met: the quest to create a machine to successfully mimic the complex wing movements of birds and in the process achieve flight.
Now for the first time this dream has been adequately fulfilled. The SmartBird elegantly reproduces the wing movements of birds with a brilliant concept. The result is an astonishing creation that can take off, fly and land autonomously, and achieve this with an unprecedented efficiency in flight operation.
At 450 grams (1 pound) and with an almost 2 Meter (6 feet) wingspan it is a marvel of economy. The design clearly draws on avian biological design principles. It has a certain ‘beauty of simplicity’ feel about it.
The video above shows a short (not quite) 2 minute segment of the SmartBird in flight. The SmartBird’s wings have a very realistic “twist” movement that follows the action of a real bird’s wing very closely. You can see this clearly in the cut-away animation shown in the next video.
“The wings just beat up and down but a torsional drive unit can make them twist to provide “vectored” thrust. The flight is controlled from the ground using Zigbee radio links to a computer including the head mounted video camera. It is extremely lightweight at under 500 gms and it has a wing span of about 2 meters. It’s powered by 23W of battery and achieves an 80% aerodynamic efficiency (45% overall).”
Festo is at the leading edge of developing energy-efficient automation systems of the future that draw on biology for design inspiration. The SmartBird is great example of biologically inspired design with enormous potential.