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Is it a bird, a plane? Not superman, but a flapping wing drone

Mechanical engineer Associate Professor Gih-Keong Lau pictured with the drone prototype. Credit: National Chiao Tung University

A drone prototype that mimics the aerobatic manoeuvres of one of the world's fastest birds, the swift, is being developed by an international team of engineers in the latest example of biologically inspired flight.

A research team from Singapore, Australia, China and Taiwan has designed a 26 gram ornithopter (flapping wing aircraft) which can hover, dart, glide, brake and dive just like a swift, making them more versatile, safer and quieter than the existing quadcopter drones.

Weighing the equivalent of two tablespoons of flour, the flapping wing drone has been optimised to fly in cluttered environments near humans, with the ability to glide, hover at very low power, and stop quickly from fast speeds, avoiding collisions—all things that quadcopters can't do.

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