PigeonBot, the first robot that flies almost like a bird

Researchers have taken inspiration from the pigeon to create a wing that can dynamically modify its shape to optimize each phase of a flight.

When Man sought to fly, he tried to imitate the birds as well as he could. Even today, it still draws inspiration from birds to optimize aircraft wings. Imitating the wing of birds and more precisely that of the pigeon, is precisely what researchers at Stanford University's Lentink Lab in the United States have been able to experiment with with their PigeonBot.

It is a drone that has the ability to have wings close to those of a bird. There is no question of the aircraft flaking its wings, propelling itself into the air with a propeller engine placed on the nose. On the other hand, it is at the joint of the wings that the scientists pushed their research and were inspired by those of the pigeon. In fact, despite what one can imagine, the precise operation of the wing during the flight phases of a bird is not very precisely known.

Almost like a bird

This is why, from a dead pigeon, they studied how the different knuckles and orientation of the feathers change the shape of the wing. Thus, it is the angle between two joints, the equivalent of the wrist and the finger at the tip of the wing bone, that changes the shape of the wing. By changing this angle, the joints also rotate the feathers slightly and deviate from each other. The shape delivered by the plumage changes the lift of the wing and thus the performance of the flight according to the different phases. Thus, the PigeonBot can, if necessary, spread its wings, or retract them.

With this principle and using real pigeon feathers on the PigeonBot, the drone-aircraft allows to increase efficiency by optimizing lift and minimizing drag to travel as far as possible with the least energy. A real asset to lighten the weight of a drone by using a less heavy battery because of a lower capacity.

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