Robotic bird flies at Pack Expo 2012

Festo Corp.’s SmartBird, a bionic, lifelike herring gull replica capable of autonomous flight via remote control, was demonstrated at Pack Expo 2012, continuing the company’s work that emulates nature to help advance industrial automation products.

12/05/2012


SmartBird from Festo is hand launched to start a flight at Pack Expo 2012. CFE Media photo by Frank J. BartosDynamic demos have become a popular draw at technology shows, often presenting attendees with useful innovations. A case in point was the recent showing at Pack Expo of Festo Corp.’s “SmartBird”—a bionic, lifelike herring gull replica capable of autonomous flight via remote control. Development of SmartBird is a continuation of the company’s work that emulates nature, with the potential to yield new solutions translatable into industrial products. 

The study of nature to derive insights into more efficient control technologies has been ongoing at Festo for some time. Part of the company’s Bionic Learning Network, such development projects are intended to yield new approaches and solutions for automation. The SmartBird project had the objective to “decipher the flight of birds in an energy-efficient technical adaptation of the natural model,” according to Festo. It represents a two-year development with university partners.

Festo SmartBird goes through its paces in a McCormick Place conference room at Pack Expo 2012. CFE Media photo by Frank J. BartosSmartBird implements true ultra-lightweight construction: Polyurethane foam skin was applied over a carbon-fiber skeleton to yield a model weighing 0.45 kg (about 1 lb). The replica has a 2-m (6.6 ft) wingspan and 1.07-m torso length, making it substantially larger, but less than half the weight of an average male herring gull. SmartBird can take off, fly, and land autonomously with wings that beat up/down and also twist for better flight efficiency. The inner portion of the dihedral (gull) wings provides lift, while the outer torsionally flexible part supplies thrust.

Flight power comes from a brushless servo motor that produces wing flapping motion through a gear and lever mechanism. There is also head and tail motion, provided by two brushless digital servo units. Miniature servo motors at the wing tips provide torsion for wing warping. This allows directing the wing’s leading edge into a positive angle of attack during the upward flapping stroke, then changing to negative angle of attack for a brief part of the stroke cycle to enhance thrust. An onboard electronics unit, using a 32-bit microcontroller, synchronizes the various wing, torso, and tail movements. Wing flapping frequency is variable for speed control, but the flapping motion has constant amplitude.

Festo mechanical jellyfish, also shown at Pack Expo 2012, are among other bionic offerings from the company. CFE Media photo by Mark T. HoskePower requirement is 23 W for takeoff and 12 W in flight, supplied by a lithium-polymer battery. SmartBird is controlled by a small remote radio unit within the sight range of about 2 km. Maximum flight speed is 40 km/h (nearly 25 mph) and ceiling height is 500 m.

SmartBird was first shown at the Hannover Industrial Fair in 2011 and is one of four prototype birds in existence worldwide. An anecdotal note: During one of SmartBird’s numerous outdoor flight demos,  a flock of seagulls reportedly become curious about SmartBird and proceeded to swarm and squawk around this “strange relative.”

Among potential benefits expected from this project are advances in understanding flow behavior, remote condition monitoring in real time, energy efficiency, and lightweight design of products, Festo noted.

www.festo.com/us 

- Frank J. Bartos, PE, is a Control Engineering contributing content specialist. Reach him at braunbart@sbcglobal.net 

Go Online

More about the Festo Bionic Learning Network, photos, videos



No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
World-class manufacturing: A recipe for success: Finding the right mix for a salad dressing line; 2015 Salary Survey: Manufacturing slump dims enthusiasm
2015 Top Plant: Phoenix Contact, Middletown, Pa.; 2015 Best Practices: Automation, Electrical Safety, Electrical Systems, Pneumatics, Material Handling, Mechanical Systems
A cool solution: Collaboration, chemistry leads to foundry coat product development; See the 2015 Product of the Year Finalists
Digital oilfields: Integrated HMI/SCADA systems enable smarter data acquisition; Real-world impact of simulation; Electric actuator technology prospers in production fields
Special report: U.S. natural gas; LNG transport technologies evolve to meet market demand; Understanding new methane regulations; Predictive maintenance for gas pipeline compressors
Cyber security cost-efficient for industrial control systems; Extracting full value from operational data; Managing cyber security risks
Getting ready for industrial IoT; Visualizing the (applied) automation continuum; Preventing VFD faults and failures; Using wireless for closed-loop applications
Migrating industrial networks; Tracking HMI advances; Making the right automation changes
Understanding transfer switch operation; Coordinating protective devices; Analyzing NEC 2014 changes; Cooling data centers

Annual Salary Survey

After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.

The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.

Read more: 2014 Salary Survey: Confidence rises amid the challenges

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
This article collection contains several articles on the vital role that compressed air plays in manufacturing plants.