It is not the first (nor will it be the last) time that technology tries to imitate nature by building robots. A group of researchers from Stanford University have developed an amazing robot capable of flying and imitating many of the characteristics of birds.
It is called ‘PigeonBot‘ and is a project that seeks to improve the efficiency of drones or small robotic aircraft. The main novelty is that it has a pair of “bio-hybrid transforming wings”, which have been built with real pigeon feathers and are used to test new forms of control and handling in the air when flying.
PigeonBot: when a robot is not only inspired by nature, but also uses it
According to a pair of investigations, published in Science Robotics and Science today, ‘PigeonBot’ is based on an exhaustive study of the skeletons and feathers of common pigeons, and how they are able to control their flight even in the presence of strong winds.
Those responsible for this invention discovered that bird feathers stick to the adjacent feather to resist air pressure in one direction. This is then a feature on a micron scale that researchers describe as “directional Velcro”.
With this in mind, it was decided to use 40 real pigeon feathers attached to each other, thus allowing the wing to change shape. The advantage of this, they explain, is that in certain movements and situations the “directional Velcro” acts to prevent gaps from forming on the wing surface.
Another advantage of using real feathers, according to researchers, is that they are softer, lighter, more robust, and easy to recover after an accident. The wings have a mechanism that is based on the “wrist” and “finger” joints of the birds, which are used to direct the movements of the robot in flight.
As for the body, it was manufactured with a foam frame to lighten its weight, and inside there is a GPS and a receiver to operate it remotely. To drive it, a traditional propeller and a conventional tail are used, since the wings do not flap, these only serve to give direction to the small robot.
For the moment, ‘PigeonBot’ remains a prototype in the early stages of development, but could serve to provide new features to future drones and aircraft, as this technique inspired by nature, would allow the creation of new lighter drones, capable of traveling longer distances, and can use much smaller batteries. In turn, they would be easier to control and could even fly in adverse conditions with high-speed headwinds.