Pioneering flight of ‘Robo Raven’ is major breakthrough for micro air vehicles
Robotic bird’s independently controllable wings makes more realistic flight maneuvers possible.
And how hard could it be to make a robot bird whose wings can flap independently of each other? So hard that it’s been a breakthrough that’s been out of reach for engineers–until now.
What makes building robotic birds so difficult? Not only is there a long trial and error process, but every error leads to a crash, often one that is fatal to the robot. This makes design iterations painfully slow.
Gupta, a professor in Mechanical Engineering and the Institute for Systems Research in the A. James Clark School of Engineering, has been working on flapping-wing robotic birds for the better part of a decade. He and his graduate students, along with Mechanical Engineering Professor
But the limitation of simultaneous wing flapping restricted how well the robotic bird could fly. So Gupta decided to tackle the much thornier problem of creating a more versatile bird with wings that operated independently, just like real birds. An unsuccessful attempt in 2008 led to the project being shelved for a while. Then, in 2012, Gupta partnered with Bruck and their graduate students to try again.
“Our new robot,
The challenge was that the two actuators required a bigger battery and an on-board micro controller, which initially made
“How did we get
But smarter manufacturing and lighter parts were only part of the solution.
So the team did three more things to get
“We can now program any desired motion patterns for the wings,” Gupta says. “This allows us to try new in-flight aerobatics–like diving and rolling–that would have not been possible before, and brings us a big step closer to faithfully reproducing the way real birds fly.”
Funding for the robotic birds project has been provided by the National Science Foundation, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Army Research Laboratory, and the Army Research Office.
1) Robo Raven in flight. 2) Robo Raven’s wings flap completely independent of each other. 3) (L-R) Students Luke Roberts, John Gerdes, and Ariel Perez-Rosado with Robo Raven. CREDITS:
Watch a video of
View videos of Gupta’s early (simultaneous) flapping-wing robotic birds: terpconnect.umd.edu/~skgupta/UMdBird/
The A. James Clark School of Engineering: www.eng.umd.edu
The Institute for Systems Research: www.isr.umd.edu
The Department of Mechanical Engineering: www.enme.umd.edu