It’s A Bird! It’s A Plane! No! It’s The World’s First Mechanical Bird
When Orville and Wilbur Wright took flight for the first time in human history in 1903, they were obeying the laws of aerodynamics. Many before them had tried to build contraptions that would take humans to the skies, but were unsuccessful because they built them to flaps their wings like birds.
Now, 111 years later, Israeli students have successfully designed a bird-like flying machine that can fly by flapping its wings.
The goal of the project, dubbed “Birdinator,” was to understand the mechanical aspects of a bird’s flight capabilities in nature, and to construct an artificial bird that would mimic a real bird as closely as possible.
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“Most of the final-year projects at Technion’s Faculty of Aerospace Engineering are concerned with planning and development of aircrafts or missiles,” says Matan Meir, a faculty graduate. “We wanted to work on a different sort of project, one that required ‘out of the box’ thinking. We wanted to understand how these birds fly and how to mechanically recreate this ability.
He adds: “It’s important to emphasize that although there are machines that simulate the flapping of bird’s wings, it’s nothing like the complex movement of the wings by a bird in flight, which is much more than simple up and down movements.”
“Built like a bird, flies like a model airplane”
After numerous observations of birds in nature and films and an in-depth study of biological articles on the subject, the Technion team managed to develop a mechanism that simulates the movement of a bird’s wing.
“By Implementing aircraft design tools and mechanical adjustments, we designed an artificial bird capable of flapping flight for 10 minutes,” explains Meir.
The team’s mechanical bird flies at a typical rate of three meters a second, with a speed range of 10-20 meters per second in horizontal motion, carrying a load of 20g and tolerant of wind gusts. The bird has an engine attached to its wings, and most of the maneuvering is carried out by the wings. “We fly it like a model airplane,” says Meir.
The Birdinator was mentored by Professor Gil Iosilevskii, from the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering and was presented at the competition held at the Israel Annual Conference on Aerospace Sciences last month.
Ten student teams from the Technion entered the competition, along with student teams from Tel Aviv University, Ben Gurion University, and the Afeka Tel Aviv Academic College of Engineering. Among the projects presented is a plan for a 50 passenger aircraft, a design for an anti-tank missile, the SAMSON project – Autonomous cluster flight of multiple satellites, an experimental investigation of flight in hummingbirds, and a computational and experimental investigation of the mechanical harvesting of wind energy on a vibrating structure.