We could be one step closer to the Hunger Games' spy birds, as a team of engineers at Stanford University have created a 'terrifying' new robot that can act just like a deadly peregrine falcon.
The robo-falcon can perch and land on thin branches at high speed using 3D-printed claws and legs based on the bloodthirsty bird of prey.
The bird could one day be used for search and rescue, or even keeping tabs on wildlife.
"It's not easy to mimic how birds fly and perch," said William Roderick, a graduate student who was involved in the research. "After millions of years of evolution, they make takeoff and landing look so easy, even among all of the complexity and variability of the tree branches you would find in a forest."
When attached to a high-speed drone, the bird bot is capable of flying and landing on a huge range of perches at high speed. It then uses an accelerometer, which most smartphones have, to balance.
Using a 3D-printed 'skeleton' and AI, it can even catch objects thrown by hand, such as a tennis ball and a dummy.
Luckily, there are no plans to use the bird for intrusive human surveillance. The researchers hope it will have applications in biology research as it will let them get up close and personal with real birds.
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“Part of the underlying motivation of this work was to create tools that we can use to study the natural world,” said Roderick. “If we could have a robot that could act like a bird, that could unlock completely new ways of studying the environment.”
The project, which first launched six years ago, hopes to enter a 10 million dollar competition to build technology that can monitor biodiversity in rainforests.
While robots like this can seem intimidating, they do have a huge range of applications for scientific research and, importantly, remain ultimately under human control at all times.
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