Northwestern Polytechnical University researchers created a unique drone that looks and flies like a bird. It is significantly smaller than most unmanned autonomous vehicles and has flapping wings resembling a bird’s. As a result, Chinese scientists see numerous applications, from research to military purposes.
We often think of birds when flight comes to mind, so people centuries ago designed the first airplanes based on avians. Consequently, most planes have wingspans and heads roughly the same shape and proportions as birds. Surprisingly, China achieved a monumental feat by creating a machine that flies by mimicking these flying creatures, down to their flapping wings.
This article will elaborate on the features of the Chinese “flapping wing” drone. Later, I will cover other interesting flying machines from other parts of the world.
What can the bird drone do?
EurAsian Times reported that Chinese scientists call their outstanding bird drone the Xinge. It is the advanced and improved version of the “ornithopter homing pigeon,” Yunxiao.
“The ornithopter Xinge, or the homing pigeon, can fly for up to three hours, five minutes, and 30 seconds continuously in one charge, breaking the previous Guinness World Record created by the team,” the ET report said.
Yunxiao has a wingspan of 70 cm and weighs 260 grams. It flew for 2 hours, 34 minutes, and 38 seconds. On the other hand, the more sophisticated Xinge is roughly half of its predecessor’s wingspan and a quarter of its weight.
Northwestern Polytechnical University Song Bifeng stated, “It’s a leap in technological advance of the bionic aircraft. The significant increase in fly time not only verifies the aircraft’s performance but helps expand its application possibilities, which will speed up its use in reality.”
The Sundries website said ornithopters or bird drones can help scientists study nature because it doesn’t frighten birds. However, people can use larger models to scare away birds from airfields.
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EurAsian Times said the Chinese military may soon develop versions of the Xinge bird drone for covert reconnaissance. “The bionic flapping-wing aircraft imitates the flight mode of birds and other creatures flapping their wings. It is lightweight, small in size, and low noise, as well as is bionic, concealable, and portable,” it said.
“It is easily used for hand-thrown take-off and gliding to land, which can be used in many situations such as covert reconnaissance in a complex environment, emergency rescue, and field biological scientific research,” ET added.
The news website said it has potential uses in the civilian market and animal conservation. However, it will undergo more testing before it enters mass production.
What are the other recent drone projects?
On the other side of the world, the United States is testing more commercial drone projects. Amazon is testing one of the most significant ones: its Prime Air service.
Participants of the trial can ask drones to carry packages weighing up to 5 lbs. That could help people get their food or medicines faster because deliveries won’t struggle with traffic.
Amazon said, “The drone will fly to the designated delivery location, descend to the customer’s backyard, and hover at a safe height. It will then safely release the package and rise back up to altitude.”
Another cool feature is the Amazon drones’ artificial intelligence. They fly and avoid obstacles without the need for human controllers. Amazon Prime Air is only available in College Station, TX, and Lockeford, CA, at the time of writing.
Amazon Air spokesperson Natalie Banke told KTXL Fox 40, “Our aim is to safely introduce our drones to the skies. We are starting in these communities and will gradually expand deliveries to more customers over time.”
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Amazon Air is one of the most significant drone projects because it may encourage more people worldwide to use drone deliveries. Soon, drones flocking to our cities may become a common sight.
That is why Johns Hopkins researchers created an AI drone algorithm that will organize drone flight patterns. It will prevent these flying machines from colliding.
Soon, the Federal Aviation Agency acknowledges the issue and plans to solve it with a UAS traffic management (UTM) system. The Johns Hopkins AI drone algorithm might become a part of it.
China’s latest bird drone mimics the animal’s flapping wings while flying. As a result, it opens new exciting applications for unmanned autonomous vehicles.
For example, ornithologists or bird scientists may use these drones to find and observe endangered species without scaring them. Also, militaries can use them for reconnaissance.
Other countries like the United States are also exploring more possibilities with drones. Learn more about these digital trends at Inquirer Tech.
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