Robotic Bird Has USAF Flocking

A prototype of a small robotic bird created from carbon fiber composites and Mylar has the U.S. Airforce flocking nearby for a closer look.

Sunil Agrawal, University of Delaware professor of mechanical engineering had an idea two years ago for a remote controlled drone that mimics the flight patterns of birds and even small insects. Flocks of these small robotic birds could be used to gather information for military or disaster coordinators.

“We want to demonstrate that the flapping wing machines can be built and optimized and, eventually, we would like to expand from a single flying machine to a group of cooperative flying machines,” Agrawal said. “This will be in the future from where we are now, but it is where I think we would like to go.”
U.S. Air Force officials at Eglin Air Force Base were a rapt(or? sorry about that) audience for his demonstrations.

Fans of science fiction author Greg Bear may remember his 2003 novel Darwin's Children in which he introduced a surveillance drone named Little Bird.

Also, don't miss a very early reference to full-size wing-beat aircraft - Frank Herbert's ornithopter, from his award-winning 1965 novel Dune.

See the original news story here as well as Small Robotic Devices Fly Like Birds.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 1/31/2004)

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