Robotic Birds Take Flight

Researchers create a robotic bird capable of advanced flight.

robot, bird, raven, maryland, flightEveryone has a rudimentary idea of how a bird flies.  So, how hard could it be to create a robot bird? Apparently, the answer is “nearly impossible”.

In recent research, professors S.K. Gupta, Hugh Bruck, and their students have demonstrated a bird-like robot capable of performing advanced aerial acrobatics. Named the Robo-Raven, the University of Maryland project is pushing the boundaries of what is possible with micro air vehicles.

Creating flying robots that use a bird’s “flapping wing motion” has been a painfully slow process of trial and error.  That’s because errors in robotic bird flight cause the robot to crash back to earth, often destroying the entire machine.

After several years of effort, the Maryland team has identified a breakthrough that advances the state of the art.

Key to this advance was discarding the simultaneous and symmetrical flapping pattern found in birds and replacing it with wings that can flap independent of one another.

“Our new robot… Is based on a fundamentally new design concept,” Gupta says. “It uses two programmable motors that can be synchronized electronically to coordinate motion between the wings.”

Through the use of advanced manufacturing processes, aerodynamic simulation and systems optimization, Gupta’s group was able to counteract the added weight of a second motor.  In fact, according to professor Gupta, “”We can now program any desired motion patterns for the wings… This allows us to try new in-flight aerobatics—like diving and rolling—that would have not been possible before, and brings us a big step closer to faithfully reproducing the way real birds fly.”

Watch a Video of the Robo-Raven in Flight

Images and Video Courtesy of the University of Maryland