Backyard Chirper

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Realistic Robotic Bird Takes Flight

For centuries, people have crooned that they want to fly like a bird, from Steve Miller’s “Fly Like An Eagle” to Jenny’s famous wish to “fly far, far away.”

Thanks to some clever robotics engineers at Festo, we are now one step closer to that dream.

Scientists have created this astonishing robot that perfectly mimics the flight of a bird and can takeoff, fly and land autonomously.

The flight of the SmartBird imitates a bird’s flight so well that even experienced birders may be tricked for a moment by the natural movements of this robot (see video below).

The robot, which is modeled after a Herring Gull, is extremely agile like a bird, because its wings and torso contort to different angles.

One article at reports that the contents in the SmartBird are not overly complex or expensive:

Inside this lil’ flapper you’ll find a surprisingly modest collection of parts: a two-cell lithium polymer battery, four servos, a cheap MCU LM3S811 microcontroller, a ZigBee-based radio system, a handful of sensors, an accelerometer, a small motor and a handful of other bits and bobs.

Now we’re left with the big question: what is this thing for?

Ideas behind this fascinating feat for mankind include military spying, the study of ornithology, bird-inspired aircraft or possibly “stroke wing technology” that harnesses energy from waves.

Whatever the motivation behind this creation, the robot definitely gives some insight into the types of things humans can accomplish.

Timothy Martinez Jr. is a writer and freelance journalist. His work has been published in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Remapping Debate in New York City and other publications. He’s been a bird lover since he was young and currently lives in New Orleans, L.A.