Inventor Edwin Van Ruymbeke first became interested in flying model birds when he worked for his father and grandfather’s business making the TIM rubber-band bird. While he loved the low-tech original flying bird model, he always dreamed of being able to add an electric motor and a battery.
Van Ruymbeke mulled over his bird drone design for years, studying how real birds adjusted their wings for flight, where they angled them for take-off and landing, swooping and soaring.
“A bird is not an airplane and does not use the same principles to get around,” he explains. “After watching how real birds perform, we developed and patented a control system that uses wing bending, enabling fast and instantaneous maneuvers that are not possible with a classical drift system.”
The fine-tuning of the design means you can even fly your Bionic Bird in your house — at slow speed, obviously. When you’re outside, you can fly the bird up to 300 feet away, so go ahead and let it stretch its wings!
Van Ruymbeke was able to embrace the lithium battery when it came on the market, which allowed the inner workings of the bird to be fitted into a tiny 8 cm by 2 cm space. That combined with what the Bionic Bird tech teams calls “a centrally aligned ‘spinal cord'” and a “patented speed reducer at the end of the motor” made the guts ultra-compact. The electronic components include a postage-stamp-size board, too.
Of course the size of the inner works is only half the design battle — for a flying model, weight is key, too. The finished Bionic Bird weighs just 8.35 grams, thanks to incremental advances in miniaturization, from the axles to the battery to the processors.
The inventors also used a variety of materials that are light as well as durable, such as liquid crystal polymer, carbon fiber and self-lubricated polyacetate.
Field trials of the Bionic Bird showed that sparrows and swallows would fly alongside it. Other birds that noticed it in flight? Hawks and other predators! Thankfully the sturdy design should withstand a diving attack by another, real-life bird.
The Bionic Bird arrives with an unusual charger: an egg that the bird perches on as it’s refueling. The egg changes color as it charges the bird.
Also in the box is a card with a QR code that you can use to download the Bionic Bird app, which you use to fly the model. There is also a packet of aluminum weights to balance the wings, though the bird is calibrated in the factory, so you may not need to make any adjustments.
If your bird has a terrible accident and goes beak-first into a wall at top speed, don’t get too upset. Your kit comes with a spare pair of wings for such eventualities. (We hope you won’t need them.)
While you can control the Bionic Bird with your smartphone, there are also two bird models for children that they fly with a traditional gaming-looking controller. The junior birds are easier to control, but they still include the high-tech systems of the top-end model.