Lately, it seems like anything and everything you read in a science fiction book or dreamed up as a child is starting to become a real thing. Technology is rapidly advancing and resulting in a countless number of amazing inventions and discoveries. We’re now able to print out working organs and select the color of our children’s eyes. We walk around every day with a computer in our pocket, constantly connected to everyone else on the entire planet. The list of once farfetched things that now exist is getting bigger every day, and now robotic birds, fully capable of flight, can be added to that ever-growing list.
Nico Nijenhuis of the Netherlands and his company Clear Flight Solutions are responsible for the robotic birds of prey known as Robirds. He’s developed the robots with airports, landfills, and farms in mind. Birds are a nuisance in these locales, getting sucked up into engines, eating crops, or making a mess of things in general. Robirds are designed to keep those pesky birds away.
They’re like scarecrows… from another galaxy. Unlike the old school scarecrows that were stationary, straw-filled, overall-clad men who could only idly watch as they failed at their job, Robirds are falcon-shaped robots made of glass-nylon fiber composite that tear through the sky at lightning fast speeds. Robirds actively chase away birds that could cause problems for waste management and aviation industries.
Building a robot that’s capable of mimicking bird flight was understandably difficult. According to Nijenhuis stationary wings, like those on an airplane, are easy for engineers to grasp. You can easily monitor and note tweaks and changes that affect airflow, drag, and lift. However trying to make sense of flapping bird wings is something else. Nijenhuis says, “It’s all about very complex, three-dimensional flow. What a bird actually does is so complex that it’s incredibly difficult to mimic.”
Nijenhuis determined that the key to reproducing flapping flight is flexibility. Instead of just having two wings that flap up and down on a hinge, Nijenhuis had to figure out a way to capture all of the complexities and intricate movement of an actual wing. He nailed it.
Currently, these robotic falcons are remote controlled, but the ultimate goal is for Robirds to be fully automated, streaking across the sky of their own accord. You might find this to be delightful or you might find it terrifying, but either way it’s definitely amazing!