Computing Community Consortium Blog

The goal of the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) is to catalyze the computing research community to debate longer range, more audacious research challenges; to build consensus around research visions; to evolve the most promising visions toward clearly defined initiatives; and to work with the funding organizations to move challenges and visions toward funding initiatives. The purpose of this blog is to provide a more immediate, online mechanism for dissemination of visioning concepts and community discussion/debate about them.

“To Fly Like a Bird”

August 4th, 2011 / in big science, videos / by Erwin Gianchandani

Festo's SmartBird [image courtesy the 2011 TEDGlobal Conference].One of mankind’s oldest dreams is to fly like a bird. And now, thanks to a team of German researchers, we’ve moved one step closer with SmartBird — the first ultralight artificial bird capable of flying like a real bird. Inspired by the herring gull, SmartBird is capable of taking off and rising in the air by virtue of its flapping wings alone. It’s so lifelike that even real birds are seemingly taken by it.

Markus Fischer, head of corporate design at Festo, a company that specializes in pneumatic and electrical automation technology, showed off SmartBird at the 2011 TEDGlobal Conference in Edinburgh last week. Check out the amazing video — just a few minutes long — after the jump…

According to the TEDGlobal Conference website:

The wings not only beat up and down but twist like those of a real bird — and seeing it fly leaves no doubt: it’s a perfect technical imitation of the natural model, just bigger… Its wingspan is almost two meters, while its carbon-fiber structure weighs only 450 grams.


Fischer says: “We learned from the birds how to move the wings, but also the need to be very energy efficient.”

And it turns out, Fischer’s team “has created robot penguins and jellyfish in the search for more efficient designs for industrial automation. But of all their nature-inspired creation, Smartbird comes the closest of all to the real thing.”

By the way, special thanks to colleague Steve Seitz at the University of Washington for bringing this video to our attention!

(Contributed by Erwin Gianchandani, CCC Director)

“To Fly Like a Bird”

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