October 12, 2023
BEIJING – A bionic aircraft, developed by researchers at China’s Northwestern Polytechnical University, broke the Guinness World Record for flight time of a flapping-wing drone on a single battery charge last month.
After flapping its wings and taking off, the aircraft — dubbed Homing Pigeon — flew for three hours, five minutes and 30 seconds.
So-called bionic devices are biologically inspired mechanisms that mimic systems found in nature and are applied in modern engineering.
Owl — the previous bionic aircraft developed by them — set a Guinness World Record for flight time of two hours, 34 minutes and 38 seconds on November 15, 2022. Compared with it, Homing Pigeon is smaller, with a wingspan less than half of Owl’s and one-fourth of the weight, marking a leap in bionic aircraft technology.
Liu Liu, a doctoral student and a member of the research and development team, said that the lifelike appearance of Homing Pigeon fools real birds, which often fly alongside the aircraft during test flights.
“During flight, a raptor suddenly appeared in the sky. It made several attempts to catch the aircraft. However, through quick ground operations, we managed to avoid capture,” Liu said.
When the drone was recovered, they discovered that its head had been scratched by the raptor’s talons.
The flapping-wing aircraft imitates the flight movements of birds and other creatures. Its light weight, small size and quiet operation make it hard to detect. It can be hand-launched and glide-landed, without being limited by landing area, making it suitable for various applications such as reconnaissance in complex environments, information gathering during emergency rescue and biological field research.