Festo's BionicSwifts Fly Like Real Birds
Written by Lucy Black   
Monday, 27 December 2021

Too Good To Miss: This report from April 2021 is so impressive and deserves a second airing. A new video from Festo shows its flock of five BionicSwifts moving gracefully in a coordinated and autonomous manner.

Thanks to the way their wings are modelled on the plumage of real birds, these BionicSwifts have an even more convincing flight profile than previously.


Festo is an automation company based in Esslingen, Germany, which builds bionic robots to demonstrate how good it is at automation We reported on the 2020 version of the BionicSwift last July and it is difficult to detect how the new display differs. Is this because the same software is being used? 

As well as being lightweight -  each robotic bird weighs just 42 grams and has a body length of 44.5 centimetres and a wingspan of 68 centimetres - the design pays close attention to the details of the plumage.

Festo states:

The individual lamellae are made of an ultralight, flexible but very robust foam and lie on top of each other like shingles. Connected to a carbon quill, they are attached to the actual hand and arm wings as in the natural model. 

During the wing upstroke, the individual lamellae fan out so that air can flow through the wing. This means that the birds need less force to pull the wing up. During the downstroke, the lamellae close up so that the birds can generate more power to fly. 

For the coordinated flight of the flock Festo uses radio-based indoor GPS with ultra wideband technology (UWB). To achieve this several radio modules are installed in one room to act as anchors which locate each other and define the controlled airspace. Each robotic bird is equipped with a radio marker which sends signals to the anchors to locate the exact position of the bird and send the collected data to a central master computer which acts as a navigation system.

The birds fly according to pre-programmed route and if they deviate from it due to environmental changes such as wind or thermals, the birds immediately correct their flight path autonomously without human intervention. Radio communication enables exact position detection even if visual contact is partially hindered by obstacles and the use of UWB as radio technology guarantees safe and trouble-free operation.

Just like real Swifts, these bionic counterparts are a beautiful spectacle and prove that we really can learn a lot from nature in designing artificial life forms.


More Information


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Last Updated ( Monday, 27 December 2021 )