The SmartBird - a bionic robot bird designed like a seagull

 
 

Design study of the SmartBird and a test video.
You will recall the drawings of Leonardo DaVinci's flying machines trying to copy the bird flight from nature. It took more than 500 years for his vision to be realized: in 2011 finally the Festo SmartBird has arrived.

Gear Factor, part of Festo's Bionic Learning Network, has designed the SmartBird for Festo's trade shows and event activities. Gear Factor has played a major role in the development of this ingenious flying robot from the early design sketches by our engineers to its actual production in our facility. Before, nobody has gotten any farther than elementary models with simple flapping wing technology. The SmartBird is inspired by a seagull and its design and flying capabilities are so true to nature that it can be easily mistaken for a real bird.
The SmartBird wings don't only beat up and down, but tilt at specific angels controlled by an intelligent micro-controller monitoring continuously all data and parameters during flight and making automatically real-time adjustments. The control of flight direction is achieved with a turning head and tail, just like real birds do it when they maneuver themselves through airspace!

Our previous experience with developments for Festo, especially the AirRay and AirPenguin, helped immensely to take things a giant step further in realizing the ambitious idea of a robot bird. The SmartBird was designed to prove and convey fresh ideas regarding the potential of greater energy efficiency in aviation. The SmartBird design has reached an unprecedented energy efficiency of staggering 80%. It's extremely light weight with a minimal use of components, materials and an ingenious drive technology made this stunning invention possible.

A time-critical development for the Hannover Fair

The Gear Factor team has worked on the development of the Festo SmartBird hard for almost a year in order to meet the deadline of the Hannover Fair 2011. It must be mentioned that it has been far from easy and what now looks like an amazingly smooth flying robot has suffered many (expected) set backs between the stage of an idea and the construction of its final version.


The SmartBird weighs 485 grams, has a wingspan of 2.0 meters and it's torso is 1.07 meter long. The twisting of the wings is made possible by an 'active articulated torsional drive', which in conjunction with a complex control system results into never before seen efficiency in flight operation. Propulsion and ascending force are achieved by the beating of the wings alone.


With the SmartBird the success-story of Gear Factor's inventions for Festo, which back in the day started out with simple indoor airships followed by AirJelly, AquaJelly and the AirRay has continued. The SmartBird was key for a successful PR campaign launched by Festo around its development, climaxing around the Hannover Fair 2011. Countless clips on YouTube, blog entries and extensive international media coverage tell the story of this internationally well noted project.


We see great potential for realizing similar ideas and concepts for the event, entertainment and show industry. Well yes, almost forgotten: what could a spy bird like this do for the military?


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