Robotic falconry: winged unit lands on you!

It doesn’t have four rotors, but this advanced-glider is every bit as impressive as the most complicated of quadrotor offerings. It’s the first glider that can successfully perch on your arm. We can’t help but think back to the owl in the original Clash of the Titans movie.

The team at the Aerospace Robotics and Control Lab of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is happy to show off the test flights they’ve been conducting. We’ve embedded two of them after the break which show the unit landing on this person’s arm, and on the seat of a chair. The image above shows a montage of several frames from the flight, and gives us a pretty good look at the articulated wings. You can seen them both bent in the middle of the flight to zero in on the landing zone. In addition to this there are flaps on the trailing edge of the wings and tail. The flight path is a bit wandering since the glider has no vertical tail to stabilize it.

Now if they can make it harvest power from overhead electrical lines they’ve got a spy-bird which can be dropped from a plane (or from a drone).

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Steampunk wings: bigger, heavier, and steampunkier

This pair of backpack-mounted wings was conceived after seeing the Angel/Archangel character in the movie X-Men: The Last Stand. They measure 14’6″ inches across, but they fold up so that the wearer can actually get around in them. The mechanism is built from MDF, using several layers of gears cut from the material as well as pieces that act as the skeleton for the appendages. This makes them look and work well, but adds a lot of weight as the project comes in at about 25 pounds.

The steampunk wings we saw a few days back were partly inspired by this set. But this pair is more true to the Steampunk concept, relying on pneumatics instead of electricity for motion. A pair of pneumatic rams originally made to cushion the closing of screen doors let the wearer automatically extend the unit. As you can see in the video after the break, this happens quickly and gracefully. They do have to be folded back up by hand, and we’d bet you need a second person to assist with this, but we could be wrong.

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Personal flight from the steam age

From a small-sized backpack these wings slowly grow to full size in a Steampunk costume that hearkens back to DaVinci flight designs.

The mechanism that unfolds the wings was fashioned from parts of a baby gate and an old back massager. The massager features a pair of orbs that are meant to move slowly up and down your back. This is what accounts for the slow unfurling of the wings. After a bit of prototyping with Popsicle sticks [Dannok] and his daughter figured out the best arrangement for the pivoting skeleton. From there, the slats from the baby-gate were used to build the frame, then covered with fabric to finish the wing element for this Halloween costume.

A 12 volt gel battery powers the device, which is activated with a brass pull-chain meant for a light fixture. Once full extended, as seen above, the wingspan is eight feet. Don’t miss the pair of videos we’ve embedded after the break which show the workings of the device.

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