- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 6, 2013

A robotic bird created for the U.S. Army for use as a miniature spy drone is so convincing that it has been attacked by hawks and eagles, according to researchers. 

The Robo-Raven, as the solar-powered, remotely piloted surveillance aircraft is called, was designed and built at the University of Maryland’s Maryland Robotics Center — an interdisciplinary research establishment in the university’s A. James Clark School of Engineering. The center posted a video of a test flight this week.


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(See the video here.)

The Robo-Raven “already attracts attention from birds in the area which tends to hide its presence,” said John Gerdes, a mechanical engineer with the Vehicle Technology Directorate at the U.S. Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.


Seagulls, songbirds and sometimes crows tend to try to fly in formation with the robotic bird during testing, but birds of prey, such as falcons and hawks, take a much more aggressive approach, he said.

“Generally we don’t see them coming,” Mr. Gerdes said on the center’s website. “They will dive and attack by hitting the bird from above with their talons, then they typically fly away.”

The Robo-Raven’s wings flap completely independently of each other and “can be programmed to perform any desired motion,” enabling the bird to carry out aerobatic flight maneuvers, such as diving and rolling, never before possible.