Artificial feathers give flight to robotic birds

Festo presents its new bionic project “BionicSwift”

Thanks to radio-based indoor GPS with ultra-wideband technology (UWB) the BionicSwifts can fly safely and in a coordinated pattern in a defined airspace. To execute these flight manoeuvres as true to life as possible, the wings are modelled on the plumage of real birds. The agility of the artificial birds is not just due to their lightweight design and aerodynamic kinematics, but also to the use of function integration.

The Festo Bionic Learning Network has a long tradition of being inspired by natural flight. The creation of the BionicSwift represents the next chapter for Festo in the development of bionic flying objects. As in its biological model, the use of lightweight structures is at the heart of the artificial bird. Because in both engineering and in nature, the less weight there is to move, the less material is required, and the less energy is consumed. That is why the BionicSwift weighs just 42 grams despite having a body length of 44.5 centimetres and a wingspan of 68 centimetres. This makes it extremely agile, nimble and capable of flying loops and making tight turns. By interacting with a radio-based indoor navigation system, the robotic birds are able to move autonomously in a coordinated pattern in a defined airspace.

Aerodynamic feathers

To be able to replicate natural flight as closely as possible, the wings of the BionicSwifts are modelled on bird feathers. The individual lamellae are made from an ultra-lightweight, flexible but very robust foam, and overlap each other. Connected to a carbon quill, they are attached to the actual hand and arm wings as in the natural model. The individual lamellae fan out during the wing upstroke, allowing air to flow through the wing. This means the birds require less power to propel the wing upwards. The lamellae then close during the downstroke to provide the flying robot with a more powerful flight. This close replication of bird wings gives the BionicSwift a better flight profile than previous beating wing drives.

Function integration in the tightest of spaces

The agility of the artificial bird is not just due to its lightweight design and aerodynamic kinematics, but also to the use of function integration. The bird’s body contains the compact construction for the wingflapping mechanism, the communication technology, the control components for wing flapping and the elevator, the tail. A brushless motor, two servo motors, the battery, the gear unit and various circuit boards are installed in the smallest of spaces. Through the intelligent interaction of the motors and mechanical systems, the frequency of the wing beats and the elevator for the various manoeuvres can be precisely adjusted.

GPS coordination of the flight manoeuvre

The coordinated and safe flight of the robotic birds is made possible by radio-based indoor GPS with ultra-wideband technology (UWB). Several radio modules are mounted in the space, forming fixed anchors that locate each other and define the controlled airspace. Each bird is equipped with a radio marker that sends signals to the bases, which can then locate the bird’s exact position and send the data collected to a central master computer, which functions as a navigation system. The system can use preprogrammed paths to plan and determine routes and flight paths for the birds. If the birds deviate from this flight path, for example due to a sudden change in ambient conditions such as wind or thermals, they immediate correct their flight path by intervening autonomously – without any human pilots. Radio-based communication means that position sensing is possible, even if there are obstacles and visual contact is partially lost. The use of UWB as radio technology guarantees safe and interference-free operation.

New inspiration for intralogistics

The intelligent networking of flight objects and GPS routing makes a 3D navigation system that could be used in the networked factory of the future. For example, by precisely locating the flow of materials and goods, process workflows can be improved and bottlenecks can be predicted. In addition, autonomous flying robots could be used for transporting materials, with their flight corridors a way of optimising the use of space within a factory.

About Festo:

Festo is a global player and an independent family-owned company with headquarters in Esslingen am Neckar, Germany. The company supplies pneumatic and electrical automation technology to 300,000 customers of factory and process automation in over 35 industries. The products and services are available in 176 countries. With about 21,000 employees in over 250 branch offices in 61 countries worldwide, Festo achieved a turnover of around €3.07 billion in 2019. Each year around 8% of this turnover is invested in research and development.

In this learning company, 1.5% of turnover is invested in basic and further training. Yet training services are not only provided for Festo’s own staff – Festo Didactic SE also supplies basic and further training programmes in the field of automation technology for customers, students and trainees.

DrawBo introduces innovative personalized robotic drawing tutor for kids

DrawBo is a compact AI-backed personalized robot drawing tutor that assures a safe, comfortable, and highly engaging drawing class for kids.

How about a drawing teacher for your kid that can teach your kids tirelessly and endlessly for hours? How about a drawing class at the comfort of your home yet without the harmful radiation of virtual classes- while maintaining social distancing? Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, a California-based dynamic tech firm, DrawBo, has recently launched an innovative personalized robotic drawing tutor for kids that will help them learn at the safety of home, without the radiation effects of on-screen classes. Titled „DrawBo,“ the AI-backed robot is strategically designed to inspire creativity in little ones and enhance their focus.

The FIRST of its kind, DrawBo is a palm-sized intelligent robot developed based on state-of-the-art technologies and insights derived from educational psychologists and child art teachers from all over the world. It is strategically shaped like a cute bright butterfly to attract the attention of little ones. The robot works in tandem with the DrawBo smartphone app.

„Kids today spend most of their waking hours before the screens, which exposes them to severe harmful radiation from screens. The current pandemic has made matters even worse by limited children’s movement to indoors and on-screen classes only. In such a gloomy scenario, our robotic drawing tutor DrawBo arrives to create a creative and refreshing educational experience for kids of all ages- from the comfort of home and far away from radiation of online classes“, stated Somnath Singh from DrawBo.

„With our intelligent palm-sized drawing tutor robot, your kids will find a teacher who is never tired of teaching them. Moreover, DrawBo assures a comfortable drawing class for kids without worries of commute-time to art classes, peer pressure in drawing schools, and radiation from on-screen virtual classes.“

Operating DrawBo is as simple as 1-2-3:

  • The DrawBo mobile app is bustling with thousands of images to choose from, including figures of famous kid movies and cartoon characters.                                                
  • Once the user chooses one image, it gets uploaded into DrawBo’s memory through Bluetooth.
  • Next, DrawBo deploys AI technology to split the image into simpler curves and lines to make learning easier for kids through multi-step education.
  • As the robot starts drawing, the child needs to follow every step the robot takes to learn the drawing.

DrawBo would stop at every step, offering sufficient time for the kid to copy the step and learn the pattern before marching to the next step. Being an intuitive tutor, DrawBo considers the complexity of each step and determines the pause time accordingly. Users can even set their preferred pause-time settings through both manual and automatic settings.

„DrawBo is designed with care to awaken the artist in your child and give wings to their imagination. The images given are categorized into different levels to choose one as per their kids‘ skill level and age.  But such a high-tech product needs robust financial backup and hence this Kickstarter campaign. Your generous support will enable us to bring DrawBo to life and assure safer, comfortable, and more engaging drawing classes for kids.“

Backers will be rewarded with handy discounts on DrawBo. To show your support for the campaign, please visit Kickstarter.

Recycled Robots Invade North America “We Come In Peace,” Declare Funky Fobots

Raleigh, NC –Not many people can say that the economic downturn has changed their lives for the better. But for Raleigh, NC artist Amy Flynn, it has been the catalyst that has taken her from a comfortable, 27 year career as an illustrator, to a whole new world of galleries, art fairs and Fobots.

Fobots? That would be short for Found Object Robots, and Amy can’t build them fast enough. Incorporating cool vintage junk found at flea markets, scrapyards, basements and auctions, she creates each one as a one-of-a-kind sculpture, with its own name, number, and personality. As it says on their tags, “They are not functional, they are not toys, and they will not go on a rampage while you sleep”.

“I’d been a professional illustrator, working for giftware and greeting card companies, for most of my life,” explains Amy. “But I’d never faced economic conditions so bad. Clients were backing out of contracts, failing to pay me, going bankrupt. I was at my wit’s end”. Finally, her husband said “Why don’t you take some time off and make some of your robots? You’re so much happier when you’re making robots”.

The Fobots had been born of Amy’s love of flea markets and robots. She likes to tell people that they combine two of her favorite passions—making stuff, and shopping. So she went upstairs to her workshop and made some bots. And the recession got worse. She made some more, just to keep the creative juices flowing until business picked up. It didn’t. Soon, the mantelpiece was full, and people were starting to joke about robots taking over the house. Encouraged by a local gallery to start selling them as a business, the Fobots made their debut at the Buyers Market of American Craft, a national wholesale show in Philadelphia. “We sold out of our inventory of 100 bots, and had orders for more. Other artists encourage me to apply to some of the big outdoor art festivals. The first one we applied to was Saint Louis in 2009, and what do you know?–they accepted us! It’s like saying you want to be an actor, and getting cast in the first show you audition for—on Broadway!” Since that auspicious beginning, the Fobots have appeared in many of the country’s top shows, from Miami to Sausalito. They’ve even been on television, gracing the sets of “Ugly Betty” and the ESPN show, “Pardon the Interruption”.

It’s easy to see why Amy’s little metal friends are so popular. The junk they’re made from is cool to start with—vintage cameras, funky old tins, little toy refrigerators with the food printed on the inside of the doors, car parts, and metal spinning tops transform themselves into faces, bodies, arms and legs. And, like the Tin Man, they all have a little brass heart inside. Then there are the names—Hermaphrobot, Steampunky Brewster, Robama, Sigmund Droid, Cyborg Young, Queen Elizabot, Love Machine, Roboticelli…you get the picture. And some of them…well, let’s just say that in some cases, it’s easy to tell the boys from the girls.

Amy is so much happier now making Fobots. And that’s something that never would have happened if things hadn’t first gotten so bad. Reflects Amy. “I keep hearing that the Chinese characters for “crisis” and “opportunity” are the same. I looked it up—turns out, they’re not, that’s just a myth. But they SHOULD be.”

Amy Flynn is the Senior Fobotologist and creative genius behind FOBOTS. To see more of her little metal friends, visit