Hawks and other birds of prey are famous for their keen eyesight.
But researchers have created a robotic bird so lifelike that it’s even fooled hawks, which swoop down and attack it the way they would any other pigeonlike bird.
Developed at the Maryland Robotics Center, the robot — dubbed Robo Raven — is made of carbon fiber; 3D-printed, lightweight, thermal-resistant plastic; foam; and silvery Mylar foil (for its wings and tail).
Robo Raven is almost 2 feet long (60 cm) and weighs less than a can of soda. Its original design was developed in 2007 by University of Maryland professors S. K. Gupta and Hugh Bruck, who carried the battery-powered bird through several evolutions before arriving at the current model.
The long lead time was necessary because, during the trial-and-error process needed to improve the robotic bird, any error would lead to a crash. This would sometimes destroy the robot, so each step in the design process was painstakingly slow.
What makes the current model so realistic is its ability to move each wing independently of the other, just as real birds do. This enables the Robo Raven to swoop, soar, dive and flap its wings in a much more aerobatic way than older models, whose wings could only move simultaneously.