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Robotic raptors look and fly like the real thing

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September 2, 2014

Robot raptors that fly like the real thing are designed to act as a deterrent to flocks of...

Robot raptors that fly like the real thing are designed to act as a deterrent to flocks of nuisance birds

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Birds that stray into the paths of aircraft, eat crops, or spread disease from foraging in large numbers at landfills are, at best, a nuisance and, at worst, downright dangerous. Over the years people have tried everything from scaring them away with loud noises to trapping them – all with varying results. Now a designer from the Netherlands has come up with robotic birds of prey that look and fly exactly like the real thing.

Dubbed "Robirds," these flying raptor creations are the brainchild of Nico Nijenhuis from Clear Flight Solutions. The remotely controlled, realistic looking birds actually flap their wings to fly, and in a way that makes them remarkably similar to the real thing. According to the designers, this means that their artificial predator birds can fly in and around problem areas, encouraging nuisance birds to leave by exploiting the natural instinct of birds to avoid predators, particularly through silhouette and wing movement recognition.

In addition, the creators claim that – as the system is fully controllable by an operator on the ground with a remote control – especially difficult birds can be persuaded to leave by singling them out with the Robird to chase them away.

The practical upshot of all this is that – according to the designers – targeted bird populations learn to avoid what they perceive as the active stalking grounds of a bird of prey and that bird numbers in the areas of Robird operation drop by 50 percent or more. As a result of continued operations, the creators also claim that Robirds virtually eliminate the chances of nuisance bird flock habituation in the long term.

With a body length up to 58 cm (23 in) and a wingspan of 120 cm (47 in), the peregrine falcon model is capable of reaching 80 km/h (50 mph) and is designed to act as a deterrent to birds of up to 3 kg (6.6 lb). However, the eagle model is even more intimidating. With a body length nearly twice the length of the falcon and wingspan of up to 220 cm (86 in), this robot bird is designed to scare off any type of bird and would probably scare the odd human or two as well.

Though currently still wirelessly controlled by a human on the ground – and not quite as smart as a Festo seagull – plans are afoot to make the Robirds autonomous, with the company pursuing this goal with business and technical partners and trials currently underway that are set to continue into 2015.

The short video below demonstrates a Robird in flight, demonstrating its striking similarity to the real thing.

Source: Clear Flight Solutions

About the Author
Colin Jeffrey Colin discovered technology at an early age, pulling apart clocks, radios, and the family TV. Despite his father's remonstrations that he never put anything back together, Colin went on to become an electronics engineer. Later he decided to get a degree in anthropology, and used that to do all manner of interesting things masquerading as work. Even later he took up sculpting, moved to the coast, and never learned to surf.   All articles by Colin Jeffrey
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16 Comments

Very smart. An innovation that as such direct advantages will surely succeed. Airport already use real raptor so less costly robotic raptors will surely encounter success.

Deres
2nd September, 2014 @ 12:31 am PDT

I imagine that the military would be interested in adopting a surveillance drone with such awesome disguise capabilities.

Odin Thorleifsson
2nd September, 2014 @ 02:44 am PDT

Very impressive. Almost as effective as putting a pair of real falcons in the area.

A mated pair of the Peregrines would do the trick at less cost and even better, provide their own replacements.

James Smith
2nd September, 2014 @ 04:48 am PDT

This will make drones that much harder to spot...(once they can be programmed to hover..)

Ash Mills
2nd September, 2014 @ 05:43 am PDT

I can't believe the military hasn't already built this. Just attach a bomb.

Larry McInnes
2nd September, 2014 @ 08:38 am PDT

Different forms for different functions. The bird shape & behavior frightens other birds. Military drones are difficult to spot in practice because of the combination of size & altitude. Shape doesn't matter very much if something is far enough away.

theotherwill
2nd September, 2014 @ 10:30 am PDT

So how long does it fly, before the nuisance birds come back, and they will in any weather.

Are you planning on permanently having an operator stationed nearby to charge, maintain, & repair?

Get the real thing, self sufficient.

Bob Flint
2nd September, 2014 @ 10:32 am PDT

PERFECT application for IBM's True North / SyNAPSE chip. Drones of all types will reach new autonomous capabilities with neuromorphic designs like SyNAPSE. In fact, True north, with one million synthetic neurons and 256 million synthetic synapses, is estimated to have the capacity for bee-like intelligence. Bees, with their tiny brains, can do some amazing things like fly (duh), locate, optimize, and share knowledge about flight paths to food. Collectively, they can build hives, ward off enemies, kill enemies, even kill people (gulp). Imagine what a robotic falcon or other drone could do with a bee brain.

Capacity of a bee brain, of course, is only the beginning. In a few short years, the chip will be shrunk and improved to have the capacity of a cat brain, except enhanced with fluent speech and all kinds of interfacing with our smart phones to infuse our computing tasks with intelligence.

Next stop, Watson in your pocket, initially operating in the cloud, then operating offline and independently in gadgets and robotic appliances EVERYWHERE!

kalqlate
2nd September, 2014 @ 10:39 am PDT

Maybe these can solve the problem of birds flying into windmills and getting smashed and concentrated solar collectors and getting fried.

Leithauser
2nd September, 2014 @ 10:45 am PDT

This bird or "Robird" is not new. Called the Ornithopter, flapping wing vehicles have been around for over ten years now. The best and the first successful design was by Sean Kinkade, USA. Unfortunately Sean died in an accident last year. One of Sean's plans was to have them used in deterring real birds from the vicinities of Airfields.

Sean and I worked on design that included a 450 gram payload and drop capability.

Any way, all the best to the entrepreneur.

Ramesh Chouhan
2nd September, 2014 @ 12:12 pm PDT

I don't like the idea of sending up a robotic bird to chase away the real ones. Yes, I know it will make the world safer for airplanes and windmills, but those are human-made machines too. Advantage: technology.

ralph.dratman
2nd September, 2014 @ 04:06 pm PDT

A bird ? do this like a bee, so it can do pollination, then i will be impressed.

Jay Finke
3rd September, 2014 @ 07:29 am PDT

How does it deal with high winds or thermals? Unless the remote operator is extremely good or the Robird has a built in GPS and homing circuit it likely be lost in short order. I remember talking(yelling) to a hang glider pilot who was hovering 200 feet above me but was caught in a thermal and couldn't come down to land. He was suddenly carried up 100s of feet and drifted away. They picked him up seven miles away a few hours later. Usually thermals aren't that strong that close to the ground but on hot days the air currents can be extremely strong.

Bob
3rd September, 2014 @ 08:12 am PDT

Cool looking, but raptors don't have to flap their wings that often. Thermal soaring tends to be preferred mode of transport. The design could use a bit more glide. Nice work, though!

Jaimal Hanson
4th September, 2014 @ 10:42 am PDT

It's going to need to become capable of reading the air currents so it can spend more time soaring and less time flapping. This is important for fuel (electric battery charge) conservation and for fooling the "prey" birds. They'll evolve the ability to distinguish between a raptor that can read air currents and soar most of the time like the real birds do and one that has to flap most of the time like the toy bird does.

HenryFarkas
6th September, 2014 @ 05:32 am PDT

For soaring raptor simulation use kites. Add bouncy tanks for low/intermittent wind, flight enhancement. Ground robot reel control could be developed easier than true flight autopilot/remote control system requiring less ground operator involvement.

Congratulation on the autonomous flight accomplishment tho.

Ronald Chappell
7th September, 2014 @ 07:30 pm PDT
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