Festo's SmartBird Flies

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If you don't know Festo, you don't know the AirPenguin, AirRay, or the AirJelly, and now you'd be missing the masterful bio-mimicry of Festo's SmartBird flight model, which the company says attains "an unprecedented level of efficiency in flight operation." SmartBird is Festo's latest aerial creation: a polyurethane foam and carbon fiber ornithopter inspired by the herring gull. The 6.5-foot-wingspan craft weighs about one pound and is capable of taking off, flying and landing autonomously. Festo says the complex system that powers and controls SmartBird has "succeeded for the first time in creating an energy-efficient technical adaptation of this model from nature."

SmartBird's structure is carbon fiber and polyurethane foam that houses an exterior rotor motor, which drives the wings through a two-stage helical transmission. The rest of SmartBird's guts include four servo drives, a micro-controller and a lithium polymer battery. In flight as an ornithopter the craft's wings beat up and down, but also twist at specific angles driven by what Festo calls an "active articulated torsional drive unit," which creates impressive maneuverability. The company says analysis of SmartBird's flow characteristics provided additional knowledge for the optimization of its product solutions. Festo develops advanced structures including optimized flow cylinders and valves. The company describes itself as committed to achieving the optimal energy utilization of machines and equipment inspired by the principles of nature.

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