RoboSwift: The tiny plane that flys like a swift

Dutch engineering students have developed a uniquely shaped aeroplane that is inspred by the common swift - one of nature's most efficient flyers.

RoboSwift is a micro airplane fitted with 'shape-shifting' wings which mean that the wing surface area can be adjusted continuously making the plane more maneuverable and efficient.

Weighing only 80 grams, one of its key tasks once completed will be to follow groups of swifts to aid in studies of the birds as they fly.

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The RoboSwift's wings are flexible and 'morph' - making the aircraft extremely manouverable, just like its namesake

It will be able to follow a group of swifts up to 20 minutes and perform ground surveillance up to one hour thanks to its lithium-polymer batteries that power the electromotor, which drives a propeller. The propeller folds back during gliding to minimize air drag.

The swift inspiration is to be found in the unique "morphing-wings".

Morphing means the wings can be swept back in flight by folding feathers over each other, thus changing the wing shape and reducing the wing surface area. RoboSwift also steers by morphing its wings.

The technique means the micro airplane is highly maneuverable at very high and very low speeds, just like the swift.

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The RoboSwift will come equipped with tiny cameras which can be used in surveillance

RoboSwift is steered by asymmetrically morphing the wings. Sweeping one wing back further than the other creates a difference in lift on the wings that is used to roll and turn the micro plane in the air.

The students found out that only four feathers were needed, far fewer than the bird uses, to acheive this effect.

The aircraft will be able to go undetected while using its three micro cameras to perform surveillance on vehicles and people on the ground.

The RoboSwift team presented the design at a symposium at the Delft university and will build the high-tech micro airplane over the next few months; it is expected to fly in January 2008.

The student team will build three RoboSwifts to participate in March 2008 in the First American-Asian Micro Air Vehicle competition in India.

Taking inspiration from nature in this way is known as 'biomimetics' - a rapidly expanding area of technology research.

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RoboSwift: The tiny plane that flys like a swift RoboSwift: The tiny plane that flys like a swift Reviewed by Unknown on 2:33 AM Rating: 5

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