One of the oldest dreams of mankind is to fly like a bird: to move freely through the air in all dimensions and to take a “bird’s-eye view” of the world from a distance. No less fascinating is bird flight itself. Birds achieve lift and remain airborne using only the muscle power of their wings, with which they generate the necessary thrust to overcome the air resistance and set their bodies in motion without any rotating “components”. Birds measure, control, and regulate their motion through the air continuously and autonomously in order to merely survive.
With SmartBird, Festo has succeeded in deciphering the flight of birds. This bionic bird, inspired by the herring gull, can start, fly, and land autonomously, with no additional drive mechanism. Its wings not only beat up and down, but also twist at specific angles. Festo has thus succeeded in realizing an energy-efficient technical adaptation of the natural model.
Butterflies are known for coming into the world as caterpillars and later emerging as colorful flying creatures. What is particularly striking about them are their large wings compared to their slim body. The wings are wafer-thin and consist of an elastic membrane, which gives the creatures their unique lightness and aerodynamics. With the eMotionButterflies, Festo has now technically implemented their extremely graceful and agile flight. So that the ultralight flying objects do not collide with each other, they are coordinated by an indoor GPS, which could also be used as a guidance and monitoring system in future production.
In order to replicate their natural role model as closely as possible, the artificial butterflies feature highly integrated on-board electronics. They are able to activate the wings individually with precision and thereby implement the fast movements. As the wings slightly overlap, an air gap is created between them when they beat, which gives the butterflies their special aerodynamics.
For the BionicANTs, Festo has not only taken the delicate anatomy of the natural ant as a role model. For the first time, the cooperative behavior of the creatures is also transferred to the world of technology using complex control algorithms. Like their natural role models, they communicate with each other and work together according to clear rules to solve a common task. The artificial ants thus demonstrate how autonomous individual components can solve a complex task together, working as an overall networked system.
Like their natural model, Festo’s AquaJellies glide elegantly and seemingly effortlessly through the water. This is ensured by their adaptive tentacles, which are controlled by an electric drive in their body. The integrated communication and sensor technology plus the real-time diagnostics enable coordinated, collective behavior of several jellyfish, even in a limited space.
Festo is visualizing ideas of how efficient systems in the field of water technology may look in the future.
With the BionicKangaroo, Festo has technologically reproduced the unique way a kangaroo moves. Like its natural model, the BionicKangaroo can recover, store, and retrieve the energy efficiently on the next jump. The technical implementation requires both sophisticated control technology and stable jump kinematics. The consistent lightweight construction and the intelligent combination of pneumatic and electric drives enable the unique jumping behavior. The system is controlled by gestures.
The BionicCobot is based on the human arm, but not only in terms of its anatomical construction. Like its biological role model, the pneumatic lightweight robot solves many of its tasks with the help of flexible and sensitive movements. Due to this flexibility, it can work directly and safely together with humans.
Bionic Handling Assistant
The Bionic Handling Assistant is an example of how structural flexibility and new control concepts, based (for example) on speech and image recognition, can help humans to interact simply (and above all, safely) with machinery in the factory environment of the future. In the event of a collision with the human operator, the system no longer presents a hazard and does not need to be carefully shielded from humans as in the case of conventional factory robots.
The chameleon is able to catch a variety of different insects by putting its tongue over the respective prey and securely enclosing it. The FlexShapeGripper uses this principle to grip the widest range of objects in a form-fitting manner. Using its elastic silicone cap, it can even pick up several objects in a single gripping process and put them down together, without the need for a manual conversion.
The Airacuda mimics a fish in terms of its function, structural design, and shape. Airacuda’s kinematical concept closely resembles the one deployed in its biological role model – propulsion is achieved through a mechanical fin drive.
All thanks to lightweight construction and function integration, Festo has technically mastered the highly complex flight characteristics of the dragonfly by creating the BionicOpter. Just like its model in nature, this ultralight flying object can fly in all directions, hover in mid-air, and glide without beating its wings.
The flying fox belongs to the Chiroptera family – the only mammals that can actively fly. They are closely related to bats, but unlike bats that are guided by ultrasound, flying foxes are guided with the help of their big eyes. One distinct characteristic is their fine elastic flying membrane which consists of an epidermis and dermis and stretches from the extended metacarpal and finger bones down to the foot joints.
For the BionicFlyingFox, the focus, as with its biological model, is on lightweight construction. The same applies in engineering as it does in nature: the less weight there is to move, the lower the energy consumption. In addition, the lightweight design saves resources in the construction process.
The Moroccan flic-flac spider, discovered in the Erg Chebbi desert on the edge of the Sahara in 2008 by bionics engineer Professor Ingo Rechenberg, was the source of inspiration for the BionicWheelBot. The flic-flac spider can walk like other spiders. It can also propel itself into the air, however, with a combined sequence of somersaulting and rolling on the ground. It is ideally adapted to its surroundings: on even ground it is twice as fast in “rolling mode” than when walking. However, where it is uneven, it is faster walking normally. In the desert, where both types of terrain can be found, it is able to move safely and efficiently.
Like its biological model, the BionicWheelBot has eight legs, which help it to both walk and roll. In rolling mode, the BionicWheelBot does a somersault with its whole body, just like the real flic-flac spider.