As fun as it is to watch nanocopters, they’re pretty simple to comprehend. A few little motorized rotors, a battery, a gyroscope, and a spiffy control system. Flying using wings is an entirely different challenge. Even the physics of modeling a bird’s wing movement is complex.
Festo’s SmartBird does an amazing job of modeling the flight of a herring gull — using only its wings to take off, fly, and land. Ultralight construction helps make this involved form of flight not only possible, but elegant. In fact, if you didn’t know this was an article about robots, it’d be easy to think we’d gone bonkers and were now posting random videos of flying birds. Think I’m kidding? Here’s a video of gulls mobbing SmartBird, thinking it’s a threat:
There is a lot of fancy science behind SmartBird, which Markus Fischer, head of R&D for SmartBird maker Festo, explains it in this “how-to” video he presented at TED:
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