Festo's Cyberkite

Festo, the German industrial automation company, is showing off its autonomous kite

1 min read

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I've long been a fan of Festo's Bionic Learning Network with their impressive list of projects ranging from flying penguins to bionic grippers. Now the German industrial control and automation company has just released a video of an autonomous kite, intended to showcase Festo's mechatronic actuators and display the Festo logo in the skies. The project was conducted in cooperation with German company aeroix based in Berlin, which already helped Festo develop its insulated hot air balloon (video).

The design of the bionic wing is based on Festo's Stingray project. It combines a wing with a large volume to hold an aerostatic lifting gas with a good lift-to-drag ratio and high rigidity, which allows the wing to maintain its position even in the absence of wind.

The entire system is engineered to autonomously and intelligently cope with strong and turbulent wind conditions. For example, the servomotors used to control the kite periodically switch to generator mode to recover energy from the steering motion and any excess energy from the compliant guy-ropes is also redirected to batteries.

For more detailed information on the kite, including another great video and a photo slideshow, have a look at the aeroix website (in German). If you have not already done so, make sure to also check out Festo's robot penguins or listen to a recent Robots interview with Markus Fischer, the head of the Bionic Learning Network (full disclosure: I'm part of the Robots Podcast team).

The Conversation (0)

How Robots Can Help Us Act and Feel Younger

Toyota’s Gill Pratt on enhancing independence in old age

10 min read
An illustration of a woman making a salad with robotic arms around her holding vegetables and other salad ingredients.
Dan Page

By 2050, the global population aged 65 or more will be nearly double what it is today. The number of people over the age of 80 will triple, approaching half a billion. Supporting an aging population is a worldwide concern, but this demographic shift is especially pronounced in Japan, where more than a third of Japanese will be 65 or older by midcentury.

Toyota Research Institute (TRI), which was established by Toyota Motor Corp. in 2015 to explore autonomous cars, robotics, and “human amplification technologies,” has also been focusing a significant portion of its research on ways to help older people maintain their health, happiness, and independence as long as possible. While an important goal in itself, improving self-sufficiency for the elderly also reduces the amount of support they need from society more broadly. And without technological help, sustaining this population in an effective and dignified manner will grow increasingly difficult—first in Japan, but globally soon after.

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