Technion Students Present First Ever Mechanical Bird

Autonomous cluster flight of multiple satellites, an electric passenger aircraft, drones and anti-tank missiles are some of the projects that were presented at a student competition held at a recent major conference.


“Les Machines de L’Ile”, an amusement park inNantes,  France

The unique design competition, of projects by undergraduates, was held as part of the Israel Annual Conference on Aerospace Sciences. Ten student teams from the Technion entered the competition, along with student teams from Tel Aviv University, Ben Gurion University, and the Afeka Tel Aviv Academic College of Engineering.

Among the projects presented was a design project for a mechanical bird, a plan for a 50 passenger aircraft, a design for an anti-tank missile, the SAMSON project – Autonomous cluster flight of multiple satellites, an experimental investigation of flight in hummingbirds, and a computational and experimental investigation of the mechanical harvesting of wind energy on a vibrating structure.

Technion Students Present First Ever Mechanical Bird

The goal of the BIRDINATOR project was to understand the mechanical aspects of a bird’s flight capabilities in nature, and the construction of an artificial bird model as similar to the real bird as possible.

“Most of the final-year projects at Technion’s Faculty of Aerospace Engineering are concerned with planning and development of aircrafts or missiles, ” recounted Matan Meir, a faculty graduate. “We wanted to work on a different sort of project, one that required ‘out of the box’ thinking. This project,  which is mostly a research, was mentored by Professor Gil Iosilevskii, from the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering. We wanted to understand how these birds manage to fly and how to mechanically recreate this ability. It’s important to emphasize that although there are machines that simulate the flapping of bird’s wings, it’s nothing like the complex movement of the wings by a bird in flight. The motion of a bird’s wing is very complex, much more than simple up and down movements.”

“After numerous observations of birds in nature and films, and an in-depth study of biological articles on the subject, we managed to develop a mechanism that simulates the movement of a bird’s wing making use of all its elements. After we realized how birds do it, we became the first ones to build such a complex mechanism. By Implementing aircraft design tools and mechanical adjustments we designed an artificial bird capable of flapping flight for 10 minutes, a typical rate of three meters a second, at a speed range of 10-20 meters per second inhorizontal motion, carrying a load of 20 g and tolerant of wind gusts. The bird has an engine attached to its wings, and most of the maneuvering is carried out by the wings. We fly it like a model airplane.”

“Concerning its design, we rose up to the challenge by developing a 3-D model and preparing drawings for production. We performed simulations with the MATLAB software system, which shows that we successfully simulated the flapping mechanism. We planned a mechanical bird that maintains all of the requirements we set for ourselves.”

Technion Students Present First Ever Mechanical Bird
MAZELTOV – a drone that Technion presented at the DBF (Design/ Built/ Fly) International Student Competition

A team of ten students from the Technion’s Faculty of Aerospace Engineering participated last April in the DBF International Student Competition, held under the auspices of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) in Tucson, Arizona.

“We built a drone at a Technion laboratory from scratch, including design and fabrication, under the guidance of Mr. Shlomo Zach,  former senior planner in the Israel Aircraft  Industries (IAI), ” relates team leader Chai Kramf, a student at the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, who will present the project at the conference. “For thecompetition it was required to build a modern airplane capable of especially short take off (at 30 feet), with an internal and external carrying capacity of munitions, when the total weight of the aircraft should be as light as possible. At the competition you gain points for meeting the requirements and successfully pulling off the missions, and lose points for deviating from the size and weight of the plane.”

“We worked on the project for about a year. After a lot of hard work, numerous blueprints, and some crashes, we successfully built a drone, with a wingspan of two meters and a length of 1.36 m that is capable of carrying rockets the size of 40-30 cm.”

“Hundreds of students from leading universities around the world participated at the competition,  spanning over three days. We succeeded on our first attempt, and within two days we completed all of the tasks. We were ranked in 12th place out of 82 teams. It was a very enriching experience, and this was one of the major things I did during my studies at the Technion. The regular studies are drier – and working on this project I gained important practical experience.”

Technion Students Present First Ever Mechanical Bird

Electric Passenger Plane

Another group of Technion students presented a groundbreaking project at the conference, which was mentored by Mr. Shlomo Zach, former senior planner in the IAI: the design of a 50 passenger airplane with an electric engine.

“The planning of an electric aircraft is a significant challenge concerned mainly with energy, ” related the leader of the team Oz Saar, who completed his studies at the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering last year. “The challenge in designing such an airplane is in developing a battery that can reach a level of density like the aircraft fuel. This is a technology under development, which will most certainly be available by 2020. The development challenge is to produce a battery that can last throughout long flight durations (as long as possible) while being as light as possible. The world is going towards this direction, and electric motors already exist.”

“Our project consists of designing and producing a 3-D model of such an airplane. We may be ahead of our time, but the future will usher in the production of electric aircrafts that will be better for the environment. I am currently working as an engineer for a company that is working on such a development.”

The 54th Israel Annual Conference on Aerospace Sciences attracted some 500 engineers, scientists and experts in the field of aerospace from Israel and abroad. During the conference, participants were presented with new research results, the latest technological achievements, and future developments. The conference was organized by the Technion, Tel Aviv University, Ben Gurion University, Israel Aerospace Industries, Rafael, Israel Military Industries, Elbit,  Israel Society of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the Israel Defense Ministry.

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