ID: 4761

Autonomous Flying in a Swarm

BionicBee – ultralight flying object with precise control

For more than 15 years, the Bionic Learning Network has been focusing on the fascination of flying. In addition to the technical decoding of bird flight, the team has researched and technologically implemented numerous other flying objects and their natural principles. With the BionicBee, the Bionic Learning Network has now for the first time developed a flying object that can fly in large numbers and completely autonomously in a swarm. The BionicBee will present its first flight show at the Hannover Messe 2024.


At around 34 grams, a length of 220 millimetres and a wingspan of 240 millimetres, the BionicBee is the smallest flying object created by the Bionic Learning Network to date. For the first time, the developers used the method of generative design: after entering just a few parameters, a software application uses defined design principles to find the optimal structure to use as little material as necessary while maintaining the most stable construction possible. This consistent lightweight construction is essential for good manoeuvrability and flying time.


Autonomous flying in a swarm

The autonomous behavior of the bee swarm is achieved with the help of an indoor locating system with ultra-wideband (UWB) technology. For this purpose, eight UWB anchors are installed in the space on two levels. This enables an accurate time measurement and allows the bees to locate themselves in the space. The UWB anchors send signals to the individual bees, which can independently measure the distances to the respective transmitting elements and calculate their own position in the space using the time stamps.


To fl y in a swarm, the bees follow the paths specified by a central computer. To ensure safe and collision-free flight in close formation, a high degree of spatial and temporal accuracy is required. When planning the path, the possible mutual interaction through air turbulence “downwash” must also be taken into account.


As every bee is handmade and even the smallest manufacturing differences can influence its flight behavior, the bees additionally have an automatic calibration function: After a short test fl ight, each bee determines its individually optimized controller parameters. The intelligent algorithm can thus calculate the hardware differences between the individual bees, allowing the entire swarm to be controlled from outside, as if all bees were identical.

Festo is a global player and an independent family-owned company with headquarters in Esslingen am Neckar, Germany. Festo has set standards in industrial automation technology and technical education ever since its establishment, thereby making a contribution to sustainable development of the environment, the economy and society. The company supplies pneumatic and electrical automation technology to 300,000 customers of factory and process automation in over 35 industries. Digitalization, AI and the LifeTech sector with medical technology and laboratory automation are becoming increasingly important. The products and services are available in 176 countries. With about 20,600 employees in over 250 branch offices in around 60 countries worldwide, Festo achieved a turnover of around €3.65 billion in 2023. Each year around 7% of this turnover is invested in research and development. In this learning company, 1.5 % of turnover is invested in basic and further training. Festo Didactic SE is a leading provider of technical education and training and offers its customers worldwide comprehensive digital and physical learning solutions in the industrial environment.

© Festo SE & Co. KG
BionicBee 1
De BionicBee is het kleinste vliegende object van het Bionic Learning Network tot nu toe. Voor het eerst gebruikten de ontwikkelaars de methodologie van generatief ontwerp.
© Festo SE & Co. KG
BionicBee 2
Natuurlijke vliegmanoeuvres met vier vrijheidsgraden: De kunstbij vliegt met een vleugelslagfrequentie van 15 tot 20 hertz. De vleugels slaan naar voren en naar achteren in een hoek van 180 graden.
© Festo SE & Co. KG
BionicBee - Info Graphic
Functionele integratie in een kleine ruimte: Het bijenlichaam bevat het compacte ontwerp voor het vleugelslagmechanisme, de communicatietechnologie en de besturingscomponenten voor de vleugelslag en de aanpassing van de vleugelgeometrie.
© Festo SE & Co. KG
BionicBee - swarm flight
Botsingsvrije vlucht: Om in een zwerm te vliegen, volgen de bijen de paden die door een centrale computer worden gespecificeerd.

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