London -- German pneumatics company Festo has developed a lightweight robo-gull which mimics the flight of real birds using automation technology.
The SmartBird, inspired by the herring gull, can start, fly and land autonomously with no additional drive mechanism, Festo said. The ultra-lightweight 'bird' is made using polyurethane foam and weights around 450 grams.
The German company said its research team has unravelled "the mystery of bird flight," by unlocking the secrets to feathered flight. The firm said that key to understanding bird flight are two features: the active torsion of its wings and the fact that it does not use additional lift devices.
It is these properties that Festo says makes SmartBird different to all previous mechanical flapping wing constructions. The robot "flies, glides and sails" through the air just like the herring gull it is modelled on, Festo said. Its wings not only beat up and down but also twist at specific angles, which is made possible by an active articulated torsional drive unit.
Compared to the herring gull however, the SmartBird is considerably bigger, with a wingspan of two metres. Festo's aim in building the SmartBird is to demonstrate optimal use of airflow phenomena, the company said, and to provide an example of resource-efficient lightweight design.