With a planform inspired by the species of bird Apus apus, commonly known as the swift, the propeller-driven RoboSwift micro air vehicle (MAV) made its maiden flight on 27 February.
It has a wingspan of approximately 500mm (19.6in), a mass of less than 100g (3.5oz) and its tractor propeller is powered by an electric motor. The continuously variable shape of its wing is modelled on the swift and can be swept back.
Aerospace engineering students at the Netherland's Delft University of Technology developed the MAV in co-operation with Wageningen University's experimental zoology group. It is equipped with observation cameras that could be used in future to conduct surveillance of birds in-flight or people.
"The RoboSwift is the first aircraft in the world to have the wing properties of living birds. Wind tunnel tests [in October 2007] have shown that it can come remarkably close to the exceptional flying ability of the swift," says Wageningen University. The MAV made its first public flight on 5 March.
RoboSwift's pilot is being trained in bird-like flying behaviour that will include gliding flights, during which the motor is turned off and the propeller folds up to save energy. RoboSwift is being entered into the 1st US-Asian demonstration and assessment of micro-aerial and ground vehicle technology conference, to be held in Agra, India from the 10-15 March. Roboswift's development is being financed in part by the Netherland's National Police Services Agency.