A French startup has turned to crowdfunding to build an extremely light bionic bird that can be controlled using the magnetometer and accelerometer in a smartphone. The bird, currently at the prototype stage, would communicate via Bluetooth for a range of 100 meters (330 ft) and be able to fly for up to eight minutes at a time, or over a mile, after a quick 12-minute charge.
The company has experience building similar radio-controlled toys, but two interesting new features that would come with the (appropriately named) Bionic Bird are the addition of a portable, egg-shaped charger that can store enough juice for ten full charges, and the ability to control the bird in an intuitive and agile way simply by tilting your phone in the desired direction and using touch controls to regulate speed.
The 800 mAh portable charger can be refueled via a USB port in about an hour and doubles as a pedestal for the bird to sit on. The bird itself has an onboard 50 mAh hybrid lithium polymer battery that can power this ultra-light 9.2 g (0.32 oz) toy for a six-minute flight at full speed, with its wings flapping 18 times a second, or for around eight minutes on a typical flight with a distance of 1.8 km (just over a mile). The tail angle can be adjusted for either slow or fast flights, so you can also attempt to fly it indoors.
A free iPhone and iPad mini app can be downloaded to control the bird and comes with two control modes: both use touch control for the throttle, but the "easy mode" uses the phone's accelerometer to steer the bird, while the "hard mode" uses touch controls for the steering as well. The inventors say that an Android version of the app will hit the Google Play store in February 2015, and will work as long as your device is Bluetooth 4 compatible.
According to the company, a pair of replacement wings is also included. This is bound to come in helpful should you accidentally run your bird into a wall, crash it into the ground or get clawed by a raptor. The creators say that the body of the bird is made out of a sturdy foam and can easily tolerate impacts at full speed (no word on hawk attacks, though).
You can pledge US$100 for a bird on Indiegogo. If all goes to plan, the company says will be delivered by Christmas this year, with free delivery to the European Union, the USA, Canada and Japan. Other countries will need to add a $20 charge.
Stretch goals include a way to dynamically control the angle of the tail for slower flight, stationary flight capabilities, and even an HD camera for live video feed back to your smartphone, complete with mechanical and hydraulic stabilization, where the commands will be "linked to natural and intuitive gestures from a connected wrist band."
You can check out the promotional video for the Bionic Bird below.