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Researchers have built a flying, bird-inspired robot, complete with talons

In mythology, a griffin is a creature that sports the head and wings of an eagle. In Seville, Spain, where the GRIFFIN project is based, the word is a (somewhat loose) acronym for this mouthful of a name: General compliant aerial Robotic manipulation system Integrating Fixed and Flapping wings to INcrease range and safety. To put it in slightly simpler terms, the project is a multiyear, European Union-funded research initiative seeking to build a robotic bird. The results are kind of awesome.

This month, the team showed off a video of the project’s various successes over the past year. These include what appears to be a video game-style simulation of the robot bird, wind tunnel testing for the robot, a demonstration of a bioinspired set of flexible wings capable of carrying out biofidelic flapping motions, and the creation of robot talons for landing and perching. Finally, the team was able to put together and showcase a complete flying robot that’s able to flap across a room or field and land on a platform using its talons.

GRIFFIN bird robot

“The goal of GRIFFIN is the derivation of a unified framework with methods, tools, and technologies for the development of flying robots with dexterous manipulation capabilities,” the researchers note on their website. “The robots will be able to fly minimizing energy consumption, to perch on curved surfaces, and to perform dexterous manipulation.”

This isn’t the first bird-inspired robot we’ve seen at Digital Trends. For example, Festo, a Germany-based multinational industrial control and automation company, has previously created a flock of bionic birds with nature-inspired wings. However, GRIFFIN adds the impressive ability to grab onto objects with its robotic gripper talons.

In the video shared by the GRIFFIN team, these talons are shown carrying tools and flying them up to a person carrying out work on a maintenance tower. In addition to repairs, it’s equally possible to imagine a similar robot platform being used for everything from search-and-rescue missions to military applications to, potentially, safer drone delivery of items using an unmanned aerial vehicle that doesn’t prominently feature large spinning propellers.

It’s not clear exactly when the GRIFFIN project will conclude, and what is planned as far as commercialization goes. Still, this robot bird looks to be an exciting development that could have a plethora of useful applications. Until a rival research team creates a robot cat, that is.

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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