Festo's Rays Are More Than Graceful
Written by Lucy Black   
Sunday, 12 February 2023

The Air Ray is a recently highlighted member of Festo's menagerie of bionic robots inspired by the natural world. It derives from Festo's Aqua Ray which is modeled on a manta ray. Marvel at how these automatons move.

Since the early 1990s Festo, the German automation company, has worked intensively with bionics robots to "motivate, inspire, enthuse and kick-start innovation".  Its international Bionic Learning Network was formed in 2006, linking Festo to well-known universities, institutes, development companies, and private inventor, and every year has presented latest technology at the annual Hannover Messe Exhibition.

festo menagerie

We've reported in the past on the increasingly sophisticated additions to Festo's collection of biologically inspired robotic animals, insects and birds and when Hacker News included a thread about Festo's "floating manta ray with beating wing" initially assumed that it was this year's test bed project. Instead it dates from 2007, before I Programmer's time. It is however a wing of beauty and the video showcasing it deserves to be added to our collection: 

Watching smooth slow flight of the Air Ray is mesmerizing but if you want to understand how this is achieved, this annotated video provides some clues: 

The Air Ray flies through the air, but its resemblance to a Manta Ray, a sea creature, is obvious and this was Festo's inspiration and led initially to the Aqua Ray seen in action in water in this video: 

While the video isn't as impressive you can still see the elegance of this movement, something that is commented on by Festo:

Rays are fascinating sea creatures. Experts consider them to be perfectionists in underwater flying and gliding. Their fin beats in the water resemble the wing beats of a bird in the air. Their wave-shaped movements form an optimum of maximum propulsion with minimum energy consumption. The flow-optimized shape allows the manta ray in particular to move elegantly and makes it a real underwater acrobat.

Explaining the technology Festo explains that the central propulsion and control unit of the Aqua_ray  relies on its Fluidic Muscle: two counter-rotating muscle pairs in combination with the Fin Ray Effect® form the beating wing drive in both wings, a design derived from the functional anatomy of the fish fin. In the helium-filled Air_ray the Fin Ray Effect® is again used for the beating wing drive. festo air ray

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 12 February 2023 )