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Aerobatic MAV Takes Flight
On the ground, it looks like a fourth grade origami project created with a roll of Reynolds Wrap™, but its creators at
the University of Maryland's A. James Clark School of Engineering ( www.eng.umd.edu) say that Robo Raven is a major
breakthrough in micro air vehicle (MAV) technology. According to Profs. S. K. Gupta and Hugh Bruck, this is the first-ever
wing-flapping vehicle capable of flapping its wings independently, which allows it to better mimic the aerobatic maneuvers
of a real bird. The concept may seem both simple and obvious but, in fact, it requires the use of two programmable
motors, an onboard microcontroller, and a bigger battery. The initial design turned out to be too heavy to fly, but
designers cleared that hurdle by using "advanced manufacturing processes such as 3D printing and laser cutting to create
lightweight polymer parts." They also developed improved motion profiles to give a better balance between lift and thrust.
"We can now program any
desired motion patterns for the
wings," Gupta noted. "This allows
us to try new in-flight aerobatics —
like diving and rolling — that would
have not been possible before, and
brings us a big step closer to
faithfully reproducing the way real
The result is pretty convincing,
even to a local hawk that had a
habit of attacking Robo Raven
during trial flights. To see it (and
the hawk) in action, just search
"robo raven" on You Tube.
Robo Raven uses independent wing
flapping to better imitate a real bird.
Bot Flips the Bird
Let's say you are a researcher working on the "Energy
Software Tools for Sustainable Machine Design"
(ESTOMAD) project at the Flanders' Mechatronics
Technology Center ( www.fmtc.be). Let's also say that you
have received about € 2 million to develop methods and
tools to "model, simulate, analyze, and optimize energy
flows and losses" in production machinery. Now you just
need to come up with a suitable undertaking to accomplish
and demonstrate that goal. What is the first thing that
comes to mind? Why, badminton, of course. Hence, the
world's first (and probably only) badminton robot, which
appears in several vids on FMTC's You Tube channel
Well, nobody ever said that research can't be fun, and
the ESTOMAD team reports that its design schemes are
expected to produce an average lifetime energy savings of
30% in installed machines. Plus, the project members now
have something to do on their coffee breaks.
The world's first badminton bot, created for
Belgium's ESTOMAD project.
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