Monday, April 11, 2011

Aesthetic Flight Decoded

Festo Bionic Research Network calls it Smartbird, a little wonder of carbon fiber and plastic foam, which flies. They say it's 'efficiency in focus- a bird's flight decoded.'

The beautiful bionic creation looks like a sea gull with a wingspan of 6 feet and weighs 17 ounces; its wings torque and twist like a real bird while it's being controlled by remote control.

The company literature describes it "as an ultralight but powerful flight model with excellent aerodynamic qualities and extreme agility. With SmartBird, Festo has succeeded in deciphering the flight of birds - one of the oldest dreams of humankind. This bionic technology-bearer, which is inspired by the herring gull, can start, fly and land autonomously -- with no additional drive mechanism."

One writer at NPR muses, "Mostly, I imagine the engineering team at Festo as a lucky gang of Geppetto puppeteers who transform plastic foam and thin sheets of carbon fiber into closer and closer approximations of Pinocchio-like gulls, rays, penguins and elephants. Normally, such border bending projects make me nervous, but not these. These machines seem like celebrations of life."

The creation also hearkens to the imaginative drawings of Leonardo da Vinci's birds. Increasingly engineers transform the vision into reality.

See its remarkable flight here.