Ornithopters have been — mostly — the realm of science fiction. However, a paper in Advanced Intelligent Systems by researchers at Lund University proposes that flapping wings may well power the drones of the future. The wing even has mock feathers.
Birds, after all, do a great job of flying, and researchers think that part of it is because birds fold their wings during the upstroke. Mimicking this action in a robot wing has advantages. For example, changing the angle of a flapping wing can help a bird or a drone fly more slowly.
The robot wing’s performance in a wind tunnel may lead to more advanced drones but is also helping scientists understand more about the dynamics of true avian flight. The robot wing, of course, can also move in ways that biological wings can’t. According to the paper, this is the big difference in this system compared with other designs. Most robot wings only flap. They don’t have the complex motions that a bird normally uses to fly.
The paper shows the wing has three servomotors and a gear system. One motor deals with flapping, one with pitch, and another controls the wing’s folding and unfolding.