Bird-Inspired Robots Fly Autonomously to Remote Spots

The robots even use their talons to perch, land, and deliver tools.
Fabienne Lang
A GRIFFIN robot prototypeGRIFFIN

A team working on a multi-year, EU-funded project built robotic birds and unveiled their successful creations in a short and inspiring video. 

Rather uninspiringly named the General compliant aerial Robotic manipulation system Integrating Fixed and Flapping wings to INcrease range and safety, the project — luckily, and more simply — goes by GRIFFIN

What GRIFFIN's flying robots can do

The researchers working on GRIFFIN managed various creations, such as some sort of simulated version of the robotic bird, tests of the robot's wings in wind tunnels, a set of flexible wings that appear to be bioinspired that can carry out biofidelic flapping motions, and robotic talons that can carry tools and goods, as well as assist with landing and perching. 

All in all, it sure seems like GRIFFIN's researchers have been busy.

The team looks to combine different methods, tools, and technologies to develop flying robots that have dexterous capabilities. "The robots will be able to fly minimizing energy consumption, to perch on curved surfaces, and to perform dexterous manipulation," explain the researchers in their own words

The end goal is to create AI-powered flying robots to assist with difficult maintenance tasks, such as power line maintenance, or search-and-rescue missions in remote regions. 

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The video depicts two different types of flying robotic "birds," the E-Flap, and the Powerbird, both of which are able to fly indoors and outdoors and land on specific perches or spots. 

No specific date about when we can expect to see the GRIFFIN robotic birds take to the skies has been shared, or what future commercialization plans consist of. Regardless, at this stage, this looks to be an interesting project with potentially useful uses further down the line.

Robotics engineers and creators draw inspiration rather regularly from animals or nature in general. For instance, engineers used a Venus flytrap as a new robotic tool to grasp delicate objects, and these robots were actually inspired by a pufferfish and a tiny dog.

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