a robot bird built using 40 pigeon feathers flies like the real thing

a robot bird built using 40 pigeon feathers flies like the real thing

stanford researchers investigating ‘feathered flight’ have created a robotic bird made from 40 real pigeon feathers. pigeonbot is the first robot that can change the shape of its wings by fanning its feathers out or folding them closer together, just like the real thing.

a robot bird built using 40 pigeon feathers flies like the real thing

images lentink lab/stanford university



in a paper published in science robotics, scientists studied movement in pigeons, taking a close look at their joints and how they control the spread of their wings. they then developed pigeonbot using a set of biohybrid morphing wings with 40 underactuated pigeon feathers.


their study into the biology of the feathers found that the angles of two wing joints, the wrist and the finger, most affect the alignment. the bird used its ‘wrist’ when the wing was partly retracted, and ‘fingers’ when extended, to control flight. this movement allows the feathers to be in a constant state of interaction allowing the bird’s wings to morph continuously mid-flight.

a robot bird built using 40 pigeon feathers flies like the real thing



by examining real feathers, the researchers also discovered that adjacent feathers stick to each other to resist sliding in one direction using micron-scale features that researchers describe as ‘directional velcro.’ this allows the feathers to move beyond a certain point by engaging the directional velcro and keeping gaps from developing in the wing service. 

video by IEEE spectrum



because the motions that bird wings make are superior to those of an aircraft, these findings could see a change in the design of airplanes in the future, much like the ‘bird of prey’ concept by airbus, which features feathered wings and a tail. the feather-locking technology could also help to develop high-tech clothing fasteners or specialized bandages, says david lentink, an engineer and biologist at stanford university.

a robot bird built using 40 pigeon feathers flies like the real thing

a robot bird built using 40 pigeon feathers flies like the real thing


project info


name: pigeonbot
researchers: stanford university
 IEEE spectrum
paper: science robotics: soft biohybrid morphing wings with feathers underactuated by wrist and finger motion

  • Amazing,only down side, is birds of prey will take it down,great stuff, well done.

    mike horton says:
  • This is amazing. An engineered robotic pigeon using 40 feathers from a dead pigeon. I would imagine there must have been engineers and designers involved in this creation. I wonder do real birds like pigeons did they have a designer? Oh, by the way, real pigeons don’t have propellers.

    joe dee says:
  • Of course no one designed pigeon wings did they…they just evolved?
    Isn’t it amazing that we can’t accept creation when we see it in front of us.

    Howard Everitt says:
  • No it doesn’t, it looks ridiculous. If they seriously think this fly’s like a real pigeon they are fooling themselves. Birds flap their wings not use a propeller on their back!

    Martin McCarthy says:
  • Totally cool, and realistic, except for the part about pigeons not having propellers on their noses. But seriously, what evidence is there that this use of feathers improves on regular model airplane wings?

    James says:
  • Works nicely…great wing articulation. My only criticism here is about the other comments….too negative and not funny. You think you’ve pulled a pigeon ‘coup’ but the quips didn’t fly.

    Chuzz says:

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