Washington, March 6 : A micro-aircraft inspired by the common swift bird, has made its first flight in the Netherlands.
According to a report in Live Science, the robotic bird was designed by David Lentink of Wageningen University in the Netherlands and aerospace engineering students from Delft University of Technology.
Known as RoboSwift, the micro-aircraft can morph its wings like its natural inspiration - the common swift.
The research team designed the craft after the common swift, which can fly the equivalent of five roundtrips to the moon and remain airborne continuously for 4,350 miles (7,000 kilometers).
The craft weighs less than three ounces (80 grams) and spans just 20 inches (51 centimeters) from wingtip to wingtip.
Its small size and onboard cameras make RoboSwift a possible soaring spy: The craft could make scientific observations of wild birds without disturbing them or hover above crowds of people or vehicles for government and law enforcement surveillance purposes.
In fact, the Dutch National Police Services Agency has said it will financially support the craft's development.
Like the bird, RoboSwift sports feathers, though just four on each wing. By folding these feathers over one another and sweeping them back and forth, the mini-craft morphs its wing shape and the surface area exposed to the elements in order to reduce drag.
The feathery adjustments make RoboSwift a more efficient and agile flyer compared with fixed-wing craft.
"The new vehicle can really morph like a bird does. It uses actual feathers," said Lentink.
The demo of the first flight of RoboSwift was held at the Wageningen University, during which the craft flew for about five minutes at an altitude of some 650 yards (200 meters) under windy conditions.
In the future, the craft will get lessons in bird-flying behaviors such as gliding. When gliding, the motor will be turned off and the propeller will fold up so the aircraft can fly even more quietly and save energy.