Beautiful! Just beautiful, the way that mimicking nature (biomimicry!) can move human engineering higher and higher.
Enrico Ajanic at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne and his colleagues borrowed from the biology of the northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) to make a 284-gram drone with a maximum wingspan of 1.05 metres. The craft includes 27 feather-like plates – nine on each wing and a further nine on the tail – so that it moves through air as a goshawk does.
The goal was to develop a drone that can fly long distances across cities, but manoeuvre around buildings and objects that it is likely to encounter. “Multicopter drones can hover and move well, but can’t fly long distances,” says Ajanic. “Winged drones can fly long distances but aren’t very agile.”
Winged drones make me think of the tracer birds from Roger Zelazny's 1980 novel Changeling:
The prototype blue-bellied, gray-backed tracer-bird with the wide-angle eye and the parabola ear followed the dragon-riders north. A series of the larger fliers followed it at well-spaced intervals, to serve as relay points for the spy broadcasts...
The dark birdforms dotted the mountaintops like statues of prehistoric beasts, wings outspread. Had there been an eye to observe them, it might not even have noted their minute, tropism-like pursuit of the sun across the sky as they recharged their batteries for the night's flight.
(Read more about Roger Zelazny's tracer birds
Don't miss this great entry, the robot bird from Invader on My Back by Philip E. High, published in 1968.