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One of mankind's oldest and most elusive dreams has been to recreate the effortless, swooping flight of a large bird.
Now scientists have invented a robot that not only perfectly mimics that flight, but could be mistaken for the real thing.
The SmartBird's revolutionary design allows it to start, fly and land autonomously.
Its wings not only beat up and down, they also twist at specific angles, providing the ultra-light model with 'excellent aerodynamic qualities and extreme agility'.
Controlled by a radio handset, it can also simply glide through the skies if left to its own devices.
Steering is achieved when the SmartBird, which weighs just 450grams, moves its tail and turns its head from side-to-side.
Inspired by the herring seagull, scientists at technology firm Festo control the up/down flapping motion of the wings by spinning two wheels inside the robot's torso.
Similar to the wheels on a steam train, these are connected by rods that in turn provide the wings with their flapping movement.
The angle of the wings is adjusted by using 'torsional motors' that point the wings upwards on the up-stroke, making the SmartBird soar higher, and point downward on the down-stroke.
A spokesman for Festo said: 'The minimal use of materials and the extremely lightweight construction pave the way for efficiency in resource and energy consumption.'
While undeniably impressive from a technological viewpoint, it is the SmartBird's uncanny resemblance to an actual bird that astounds.
From the ground it is easily mistaken for the real thing, so realistic are its movements and the flapping of its wings.

On closer inspection, of course, it is clearly a robot.


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