Isn’t it amazing that there are researchers whose job is to create a robotic bird?
The objective of this lab is to create a flapping-wing drone or ornithopter that has a gripping claw, allowing it to perch on branches or even something like a finger. This would make the device more practical and useful.
It’s no surprise that flight evolved to use flapping wings since they’re much easier for a bird or insect to generate than rotors or jets.
Take a look at the latest news about the technology world and how it’s progressing.
Winged creatures fly or glide gracefully and efficiently, exemplifying the elegance of nature’s designs.
It’s not a shock that scientists have been striving to replicate flapping wing flight with robots for many years, yet, like other biomimetics studies, they’ve had varying levels of success.
The École Polytechnique Fedérale de Lausanne, a renowned Swiss technical university, and the University of Seville are doing quite well.
One of the most ambitious backronyms I’ve ever encountered belongs to the European-based GRIFFIN project: A generally compliant aerial Robotic manipulation system Integrating Fixed and Flapping wings to INcrease range and safety. Wow!
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This project has been working on launching a flap-wing drone for many years, with some successes highlighted on its YouTube page and website. This recent video shows it flying.
Problem in Flight
The main difficulty of this form of flying is the energy requirements; not enough and it can’t fly for very long, but too much and you can’t take off! (Which makes one more respectful to those eagles who carry away animals!)
Although size and capacity must be taken into account when working in the lab, the addition of a grasping claw could make this issue less pressing.
For weight-saving purposes, the ornithopter only had one claw, which had to be tough yet lightweight enough to grasp various perches and collaborate with the GRIFFIN’s perceptive engine.
Their design synchronizes with the motion of the flapping and features a silicone band that gently yet securely holds onto the robot without any disruptions.
This Self-Guided Ornithopter Can Land and Perch on One Talon
Landing on Branch
Once an ornithopter is able to autonomously land on a tree branch, its potential could be used for more specific purposes such as collecting biological samples or measurements secretly from the tree.
According to Raphael Zufferey, a postdoctoral fellow at EPFL currently working on GRIFFIN at Seville, eventually, this technology could even be used in artificial structures, expanding its range of applications.
Not only can it perch on a branch and do something, but it also does not need to return to the ground.
Exerting half your energy just to move up 10 meters means limited options are available.
But if the robot bird can land on a branch, accumulate some energy from a small solar cell, do something productive like take pictures or samples, and fly to the next branch for the same objective – it becomes more than just a technology demonstration and turns into what feels like a fully-capable robot bird.
Zufferey plans to keep improving on this; adding the gripping capability has drastically changed what is possible for the project.
Not only are there hummingbird, dragonfly, and bee-inspired drones being developed for diverse uses, but they are also at different stages of completion.
It’s best to keep this knowledge away from the “birds aren’t real” folks.