The MCADCafe crew just returned from SolidWorks World 2013 in Orlando. During the conference we saw, heard, and experienced many interesting things, but one of the most intriguing was SmartBird, from automation technology supplier, Festo.
Toward the end of the second day’s general session at SolidWorks World, Elias Knubben, Head of Corporate Bionic Projects at Festo took the stage to discuss the work his group does at Festo. One of the projects he discussed was SmartBird, a radio-controlled ultralight flight model with excellent aerodynamic qualities and extreme agility for a robotic “bird.”
He gave a good presentation on the project, but the exciting part was when an actual working model was brought on stage and sent soaring over the crowd. It flew several times around the auditorium and came to rest when the controller steered SmartBird back toward the stage into Elias’ outstretched arms — he caught it in mid-air to end the flight.
This bionic/robotic “bird” was inspired by the herring gull, and can start, fly, and land autonomously – with no additional drive mechanism. Its wings not only beat up and down, but also twist at specific angles for specific flight characteristics. This is achieved with an active articulated torsional drive unit, which in combination with a complex control system attains a high level of efficiency during flight operations. In other words, Festo has succeeded in creating an energy-efficient technical adaptation of a flight model from nature.
With SmartBird, Festo has deciphered the flight of birds – an age-old dream realized that I along with the rest of the audience found fascinating.