Robird: The 3D Printed Eagle Guarding Airports and Farms

by Matthew Wellington on September 24, 2014

3D Printed RobirdFor the majority of us, birds comprise a beautiful part of nature.

However for people who work in farms and airports or deal with waste disposal; birds often turn out to be a huge pain in the neck.

Many techniques have been used to try to scare away birds in the past, for example the use of lights and bangs. Despite these strategies being relatively effectual, usually they only manage to keep birds away temporarily.

At last, permanent solutions to stop the birds menace seem to have been found – Robirds!

These are 3D printed Robotic birds designed to mimic real Eagles and Falcons. Since Falcones and Eagles are ordinarily birds of prey and sworn enemies of common birds, the idea is to scare away common birds by taking advantage of their natural instinct to stay away from birds of prey.

A Dutch company called Clear Flight Solutions is behind the making of Robirds. The company comprises of a team of engineers and students being led by a 27 year old graduate from the Technical University of Twente by the name Nico Nijenhuis. According to Nijenhuis, the idea of Robirds came to him when he was looking for a suitable topic for his master’s thesis.

After consulting his advisor, his advisor took a basic mechanical bird from the shelf and gave it to him. His advisor asked him to study the bird and understand how it works then come up with ideas on how it could be made better. Nijenhuis admits that albeit it sounded simpler at the time, he got to understand how difficult that was to accomplish when he began working on it.

He explains that it is easy for scientists to work with fixed wings like those found in an Airplane. But for the Robird to work, motionless wings would not have been effective. Birds can always tell a real bird of prey from a fake one.

Therefore his biggest challenge was to figure out how he could create the Robird in such a way that it could flap its wings just like regular birds do. A highly intricate three dimensional flow is required for a bird to float on air through flapping its wings.

How the Robird Was Made

In order to succeed in enabling the Robird to have an up and down wing movement, Nijenhuis designed it to have the flapping motion supported from a single joint in each wing with a continuous rotating movement. The team also had to add a couple of on-board sensors together with stabilization software to make its movements appear natural just like that of a typical bird.

They also painted the birds in their real natural colors. Nijenhuis explains that for the Robird to work, two major things had to be achieved. First is they had to make it look almost identical to a real bird of prey which they did through proper painting.

Secondly, they had to make sure that the Robird’s movement emulated that of a real bird. This is why they had to figure out a plan that would enable it to normally flap its wings.

The Robird is remote controlled by a person on the ground. It is battery powered so continuous usage is guaranteed and economical.

While 3D printing Robird, the team considered accidental contingency situations; which for instance could result in the bird crashing into the ground. As a result, glass fibre and nylon composite materials were used to print the body of the bird. These materials were chosen because they were both lightweight and robust.

Clear Flight Solutions assures that their Robirds can crash into the ground at a speed of 50Km/hr without being damaged.

Currently the company is developing two Robirds: a smaller Falcon and a larger Eagle. The small Falcon will be used to scare away small birds while the larger Eagle will be placed in landfills where that are flocking with big birds.

The Falcon is developed to have a body length of around 23 inches with a wingspan of 47 inches. Apparently it can fly with a speed of up to 80Km/h. The larger Eagle on the other hand is developed to be twice as long as the Falcon (meaning 46 inches long) with a wingspan of 86 inches. Its flying speed nonetheless will be the same as that of the Falcon.

Check out this Robird YouTube video and judge for yourself how realistic Robird looks when in flight. I was quite impressed myself…

So far a number of trials have been carried out in Netherlands with results showing a 75% decrease of birds in the test areas.

Reports reveal that the few birds that were bold enough to return to the landfills appeared to be unsettled and constantly on the lookout for the bird of prey (Robird).

Applications of the Robird

Although full applications of the Robird are yet to be effected, this 3D printed robotic bird will prove beneficial in quite a number of fields. Farms for instance will find this Hi-Tech device to be very advantageous in keeping birds away from crops than the traditional scarecrow.

It is also planned that Robirds will be used at airports. Many times birds flying around airports put passengers on planes at the risk of being victims of accidents that could easily turn fatal. The Robird will come in handy to scare such birds away from airports and keep the airways clear for planes.

There’s no doubt that the Waste Disposal companies will also find this uniquely engineered robotic bird helpful.

Robird Turned Autonomous

Ninjenhuis has expressed his plans of transforming the Robird from being a remote controlled device to a fully autonomous bird.

Autonomizing Robird will simply make it more effective in keeping birds at bay and will additionally make it more convenient, requiring minimal human supervision.

This will however have to wait until the trials are over, which are going to continue until next year. Even then, it is quite clear that the Robird (as well as other 3D Printed Robots) bear great potential in helping humans obtain more control over their Environment.

This is definitely an ingenious solution that has already made Clear Flight Solutions rise in popularity in just a few months.

Thanks for reading and feel free to Like, Share and Comment.

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