Robotic bird flaps away last bits of privacy

This really gives a lifelike look to the eye in the sky. In case you were worried that every part of your life wasn’t being recorded by a surveillance camera, the Festo Bionic Learning Network has come up with a drone that will be hard to discern from the wildlife.

Watch the video after the break. We’re not 100% certain that it’s not fake, but it looks real enough (the mark of a truly amazing design). You’ll see the robo-bird flapping away both from a fixed point on the ground, and from a camera view behind the head of the device. It propels itself both by flapping and rotating the wings and is capable of taking off, flying, and landing autonomously.

It’s bigger than the hummingbird drone that was developed for DARPA, but we think that it sticks out less when caught at a glance. No word on the intended use for the device, but we’re sure that some of you are enjoying the nostalgia of the mechanical owl from Clash of the Titans, and that’s why we want one.

[Thank Hudson via Singularity Hub]


  1. AlanWright says:

    With their history, it’s body is probably a helium-filled balloon to assist with lift.

    This thing is very neat, but I find it hard to imagine it being useful. It can barely carry a small cam.

  2. maloushe says:

    Very interesting and impressive. I can’t think that an automation company like Festo would be involved in fake videos – it would do more damage than good. I wonder what their intend markets are?

  3. privacy says:

    where is the landing gear?

  4. Grovenstien says:

    Personally i welcome our new seagull overlords!

    Is it filled with helium, to give more lift?

  5. Mike says:

    When can I buy one?

  6. fartface says:


    1 – my patio can be covered with a scrim. Allows sunlight in, keeps cameras out.

    2 – I could easily walk around with an umbrella. This also thwarts this “spy bird”.

    3 – those that dont know, speculate it can from several thousand feet away zoom in and count the nose hairs… it cant, no room for a long zoom camera, you cant bypass physics with spy-gear unobtanium. so most of the time it will be useless as hell for seeing what you are doing. People already have no problem confusing a multi million dollar high end stabalized camera on a police helicopter.. This would be trivial.

    • jesse says:

      That is true. What you really have to watch out for are drones such as the predator, there are a number of police stations geting some predators. The newer models such as the reaper are even considered old news at this point. Boeing as been said to be in development of a drone that could fight and evade an air attack. I believe it was boeing, might be a different company though. THOSE can zoom. They can’t count your nose hairs but they can count the change you just put on that picnic table.

  7. Medox says:

    the bird is a little big with a wingspan of 1.96m

    still, very impressive.

  8. Found more on Festo web site:

    Lots more of interesting prototypes, too!

  9. Akoi Meexx says:

    I wonder how well it stands up to a pellet gun?

  10. Stevie says:

    AlanWright, considering how slowly the wings are moving, I’d have to guess you’re right.

    But how does it pull up from an almost still hovering position when the wing movement is so weak?

  11. grook says:

    Wow .. It looks great.

    I have to own one :D

  12. Gravis says:

    yeah, it’s definitely a balloon body filled with helium. check out the video at 1:27 and you can get a good look of the body wobbling like it’s filled with an air/helium mixture.

  13. Gravis says:

    ack! apparently pasting a link to youtube embeds the whole damn video!

  14. xorpunk says:

    ill be scared when wing thrust charges saving battery life..

    I think the NSA already has stuff like this, this will be bought up by marketing companies probably

  15. BobSmith says:

    Yeah, it’s legit, they’ve made a lot of other nifty things, mostly helium filled flapping flying things.

  16. IJ Dee-Vo says:

    “It can barely carry a small cam.” which is all it needs to be able to carry one

  17. GameboyRMH says:

    What’s most amazing about this is that it doesn’t use any aircraft-like control surfaces at all. It’s controlled just like a real bird, with wing warping and tail movement. This is probably the first ornithopter to do away with aircraft-like control surfaces entirely. Most either have an airplane-like empennage or use thruster props.

  18. Alex says:

    Why do so many of you guys think it’s real? My initial impression was that the bird in the video is CGI, with closeups of actual things to make it look real. It certainly doesn’t appear to be flying with the flapping wings alone, and it’s almost like the scale keeps changing, sometimes it looks the size of a normal bird and other times much bigger. Some parts make it look like it’s on strings, and others look totally CGI to me.
    If they have made it, good on them, but I’m not convinced…

  19. phuzz says:

    Festo are well known for creating flying robots that look like they’re CGI (have a google for their flying/swimming penguin and jelly fish).
    I guess William Gibson using them in his recent book Zero History takes things full circle.

  20. soopergooman says:

    Fake, there are no reflections in the windows of the buildings as it flies by them nor any shadows cast on the ground. Nice try seeing as what tomorrow is. Debunked!!!

  21. M4CGYV3R says:

    You’re an idiot. There’s no point at which the bird and camera are juxtaposed so you should be able to see a reflection.

    Nor is there a point where you should see a shadow.

    It’s a helium balloon in the shape of a bird, with a couple servos to flap/steer.

    If you think that’s so impossible you have to cry fake, you’re on the wrong site.

  22. mic says:

    It may look lifelike but real birds have behavior patterns. Anyone who has ever seen a bird would know that there is something fishy going on. Given that all they do is eat, crap (mostly on my car) and fly. One that does none of these would be very suspicious, and the thing would practically have to hit you in the head to get a decent picture.

  23. M4CGYV3R says:

    Of note from Festo’s site:
    “This bionic technology-bearer, which is inspired by the herring gull, can start, fly and land autonomously – with no additional drive mechanism. Its wings not only beat up and down, but also twist at specific angles. This is made possible by an active articulated torsional drive unit, which in combination with a complex control system attains an unprecedented level of efficiency in flight operation. Festo has thus succeeded for the first time in creating an energy-efficient technical adaptation of this model from nature.”

    CG Version of Video with internal schematic:

  24. M4CGYV3R says:

    PS: The glowing blue eyes are creepy.

  25. jonzilla says:

    I doubt there is any helium in the body to assist with lift. Helium provides a lifting force equivalent to about 1g/L of gas. The body of the bird has a volume of a few liters at most, so the impact of a buoyant gas would only be a few grams.
    (There are model planes in single gram weight range, but they are too delicate to fly outdoors or as fast as this bird).

    There are plenty of RC ornithopters available for hobbyists; this one “just” has much more sophisticated flapping and control systems.

  26. James says:

    For disbelievers – they can easily make this stuff nowadays. You’re living in the 90’s if you don’t think it can be done. I want to catch one and back-engineer it to spy on the spies.

  27. Caleb Kraft says:

    I’ve met some festo folks personally and seen some of their stuff. This is an actual item. There is no doubt, or question of being a hoax.
    Do not attack others personally or you will be banned.

  28. AllThatJazz says:

    AirHogs will have one on the shelves by this summer…

  29. strider_mt2k says:

    God I hope so.


    -and yeah, Festo is SO for real.

    Super wow.

  30. Drew says:

    I want to see it take off.

    Landing, well duh it can land, even an albatross “lands”.

    But they say it can take off with no additional mechanism, that I want to see.

  31. Kyle says:

    >”We’re not 100% certain that it’s not fake…”

    Really? Why? Is it that hard to believe? Or have you been burned by your stupidity so many times that you just put this statement in “just in case”?

    Lol. Obviously real.

  32. jAMES says:

    Drew. I don’t think they have said it can take off on its own. I know another news article that did claim that, but so far I haven’t seen festo claim that. Do you have a source?
    which brings me to my second point. Kudo’s hackaday, for having the integrity to admit that it wasn’t designed as a spy drone. Its always refreshing to see some responsible reporting.
    last point: not everything that looks awesome is CG.

  33. Jaded says:

    Looks like a bird, flaps like a bird. Probably dies like one too when you shoot it. Hard to observe some one when they keep their air space clear.

  34. dbear says:

    “I wonder how well it stands up to a pellet gun?”

    I wonder how well it stands up to bird shot. 8)

  35. Scott says:

    This is the sweetest thing I’ve seen all month

  36. Masta Squidge says:

    @ jesse…

    Do you have any idea how expensive and how large a SINGLE Predator Drone is?

    Blah blah yeah its wikipedia. However, a 27 foot AIRCRAFT is not something police departments use. A helicopter is cheaper.

    But please feel free to prove me wrong with at the very least a link.

    The only things I have found are that a couple (2-3) very large departments are using much smaller, less expensive unmanned aircraft. They certainly arent running around with predator drones… Fox News has a tendancy to scare people with footage of military drones calling them the same thing.

    Talks about a 40 lb drone.

  37. Masta Squidge says:

    btw that link is valid, i used the “short link” feature on youtube. Just in case anyone decides to claim its a virus site or some crap.

  38. Kristof says:

    The SmartBird is not filled with helium.
    The SmartBird can be seen in Hannover (Germany) this comming monday. There will be actually 3 of them. All the technolog is explained there. Of course it is not fake and the video is also not slow motion! The aerodynamical efficiency is very high, that’s why it is flapping the wings so slowly.

  39. dosx says:

    very impressive indeed but if anyone remembers a post on HAD a few months back…..argh days feel so clustered feels like months anyways it showed off a fly which was suppose to be some sort of surveilance device created by CIA if my memory is still here……..anyways considering the fact that the fly was extremely tiny and really still life like i figure if they can use that for surveilance why would it be unbeliavable for it to work on this have u seen the size of cameras today……….can someone who remembers the link for that old post pop it up here………

  40. Apex says:

    I can asure you it is not a fake. I work for Festo and the Bird flew by my office. Its purpose is to attract people at the Hannover Exhibition. Other than that there is no real use for the bird. Oh and by the way it is not filles with He, has a span of a bit under 2m and weight of about 300g.

  41. whatever says:

    A few more infos (start, weight approx 0.45 kg)

  42. lol says:

    Ähm btw…this is no fake.
    The company festo was on the “hannover messe” last week. They are specialst in biomechnic research for new mechnical solutions and such things. They even build a robotic arm that just looks like one of the arms of Dr. Octopus!

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