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The SmartBird is part of the Bionic Learning Network, a collaboration between Festo, academic institutions and companies to incorporate biological principles into technology. Inspired by the seagull, the SmartBird’s lightweight wings twist as they beat up and down, maximizing efficiency of the simple drive system that powers the wings. And its automated guidance – random but avoiding collisions – makes the SmartBird seem as though it’s really got a mind of its own. You almost want to toss it a french fry
Perhaps we should view the Bionic Learning Network as a sort of high level professional incubator for new biomimetic ideas. Most of these concepts aren’t likely to make a huge splash in the industry but taken together they represent a healthy exploration of the biomimicry paradigm that is likely to pay huge dividends at some point in the future. It’s a long term vision, but Festo seems to be well acquainted with long-term visions for robotics. They’re a regular (and substantial) sponsor for the FIRST Robotics Competition, after all. It should be interesting to see which of the BLN projects make the cut and how they are applied when they do.