Wednesday, March 30, 2011


by Tony Reich

Wow. Aviation pioneer Otto Lilienthal would have loved this. German automation company Festo has built a “SmartBird” modeled on the herring gull that, according to the company, can take off, fly, and land autonomously—just by flapping its wings.

Motors inside the 485 gram "Smart Bird" enable the wings to flap and twist at specific angles - which allows the bird to rise in the air by flapping its wings alone. It is able to start, take off and land unassisted, with the head and tail acting as a rudder to steer the bird through the air.

This robot bird has a two metre wingspan and can start, take off and land unassisted.


This robot bird has a two metre wingspan and can start, take off and land unassisted.The robo-bird, modelled on the herring gull and built from carbon fiber and polyurethane foam, has a wingspan of almost two metres and a power requirement of just 23 watts. It can be controlled from the ground using a radio controller.

The internal mechanics look similar to flying machines devised hundreds of years ago by Leonardo da Vinci, and Festo in fact references da Vinci's "rudimentary flapping wing models" as part of its inspiration.

The design features a number of innovations, including active torsion of the wings and a torso that bends aerodynamically. And it only weighs a pound.Strange that the video doesn’t show the thing taking off and landing. But it’s pretty cool to watch in flight (via


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