A falcon-winged robot can fly more stably and skillfully than other drones – and uses less energy, extending flight time.
Enrico Ajanic of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne and his colleagues borrowed from the biology of the northern azure (Accipiter gentilis) – a type of eagle – to make a drone of 284 grams with a maximum wingspan of 1.05 meters.
The drone includes 27 feather-like plates – nine on each wing and nine on the tail – so that they move through the air, as an azure does.
What do you do with a bird robot?
The aim was to develop a drone that could fly long distances between cities, but that could be easily maneuvered around buildings and objects that it is likely to encounter.
“Multicopter drones can glide and move well, but they can’t fly long distances,” says Ajanic. “And” winged “drones can fly long distances, but they are not very agile.”
The engines allow the drone’s wings to bend or bend and the tail to contract or extend, mimicking the flight behavior of a bird.
With its wings and tail fully extended, the robot gains in height. When it reaches full speed, feather-like plates can be hidden to become more aerodynamic, just like a bird.
The tail also moves up and down and sideways, allowing the robot to quickly change its altitude. Each wing may also retract or extend independently, as necessary, to increase or decrease traction.
Wrapping its wings and tail when traveling at an optimal speed of 9.6 meters per second, the drone uses 55.4% less power than would be needed to travel at that speed, with the wings and tail fully open.
“The wing and tail morphing structures of this design are insightful and new,” says Jonathan Aitken of the University of Sheffield, UK.
“It offers the potential for unconventional flight maneuvers, such as slow but controlled flying at sharp angles.”
In the future, Ajanic wants to add artificial intelligence to help the drone fly without human intervention. The usefulness of these drones can be exploited especially now, in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, when technology was often the only viable solution for transport between hospitals or in areas where physical presence was limited.