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BionicOpter - inspired by nature

03 June 2013

Focusing on function integration, lightweight construction, self-configuration and machine learning, Festo's new 'BionicOpter' shows how principles from nature can be applied in automation technology.

Following the deciphering of bird flight with the SmartBird in 2010, Festo’s developers next challenge in the Bionic Learning Network was modelling the dragonfly at a technical level. The BionicOpter is an ultralight flying object – it  can fly in all directions and execute complicated flight manoeuvres.

The BionicOpter’s ability to move each of its wings independently enables it to slow down and turn abruptly, to accelerate swiftly and even to fly backwards. This means that for the first time there is a model that can master all the flight conditions of a helicopter, plane and even a glider. Despite its complexity, the highly integrated system can be operated easily and intuitively via a smartphone.

This unique way of flying is made possible by lightweight construction and the integration of functions: components such as sensors, actuators and mechanical components as well as open- and closed-loop control systems are installed in a very tight space and adapted to one another.

Dr.-Ing. Heinrich Frontzek, head of corporate communication and future concepts, comments: "What we need to do is simplify the challenges involved in production sequences and guarantee intuitive control of machines and plants. The current projects from Festo’s Bionic Learning Network provide visionary approaches on how to do this.”