A convincing robotic bird designed by the U.S. Army might be used as a spy drone. How realistic is it? Well, attacks from hawks and eagles during test flights answered any questions.
The Robo-Raven, a solar powered and remotely driven surveillance aircraft built at the University of Maryland, has attracted attention from other birds like seagulls and songbirds. Some crows have even tried to fly in formation with the drone.
Birds of prey, such as falcons and hawks, typically dive and attack the aircraft. Once their talons hit the metal drone, they typically fly away.
John Gerdes, a mechanical engineer at the U.S. Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, said that attracting other birds will help disguise the device.
The Robo-Raven’s wings flap independently of each other and can be programmed to perform any motion. Its ability to perform rolling and diving simulations, which has not previously been possible, distinguishes the drone from previous models.
The bird is made of carbon fiber and silvery Mylar foil. It also has a layer of 3-D printed, lightweight, thermal-resistant plastic. It spans about 2 feet and weighs less than a can of soda.
Engineers at the Maryland Robotics Center said many of their designs were inspired by nature, including the hollow frame structure that mimics the hollow skeletal system of a real bird.