If aeronautic engineer Edwin Van Ruymbeke gets his way, you may soon be able to use your smartphone to fly with the birds. Not personally, of course, but in the form of Van Ruymbeke’s crowdfunded Bionic Bird project, which the inventor describes as the world’s first “furtive civilian drone.”
Because the Bionic Bird flies by flapping its wings instead of using the helicopter-style design favored by most drones, it can actually blend in among real birds. The Bionic Bird is shown attracting other birds, including predators (see video below), or being swatted at by every bird’s worst enemy—cats. (The Bionic Bird team says the drone’s foam body is “indestructible”, which seems a bit hyperbolic, given what I’ve seen a cat’s claws and teeth do to many a rug, but the carbon fiber wings can at least be replaced separately.)
The Bionic Bird can supposedly operate at a range of up to 100 meters, using Bluetooth 4.0 to communicate with smartphones—currently iOS, though an Android app is on the way. Its onboard battery lets it fly for about 6 to 8 minutes at a time. (The included egg-shaped charger can recharge it in 12 minutes, but that still means a lot of charging for less flight.)
You’re probably not going to use the Bionic Bird for anything particularly practical; it’s more of a clever toy than anything, though it may appeal to the ornithologically inclined. That said, if it works as well as the videos demonstrate, it can probably fly circles around your average quadricopter drone—or maybe even land on your homemade helicarrier.
Van Ruymbeke’s project has already hit (and well exceeded) its $25,000 funding goal, and the first batch is supposed to ship before Christmas. General availability is targeted for March 2015, with orders opening up in early December. Depending on the eventual funding totals, the crew behind the drone have already earmarked a number of improvements to come in later versions, including an HD camera with live streaming capabilities, control with a wristband, and hovering like a hummingbird.