Markus Fischer led the team at Festo that developed the first ultralight artificial bird capable of flying like a real bird.

Why you should listen

One of the oldest dreams of mankind is to fly like a bird. Many, from Leonardo da Vinci to contemporary research teams, tried to crack the "code" for the flight of birds, unsuccessfully. Until in 2011 the engineers of the Bionic Learning Network established by Festo, a German technology company, developed a flight model of an artificial bird that's capable of taking off and rising in the air by means of its flapping wings alone. It's called SmartBird. Markus Fischer is Festo's head of corporate design, where he's responsible for a wide array of initiatives. He established the Bionic Learning Network in 2006.

SmartBird is inspired by the herring gull. The wings not only beat up and down but twist like those of a real bird -- and seeing it fly leaves no doubt: it's a perfect technical imitation of the natural model, just bigger. (Even birds think so.) Its wingspan is almost two meters, while its carbon-fiber structure weighs only 450 grams.

Fischer says: "We learned from the birds how to move the wings, but also the need to be very energy efficient."

What others say

“[Fischer's team] has created robot penguins and jellyfish in the search for more efficient designs for industrial automation. But of all their nature-inspired creation, Smartbird comes the closest of all to the real thing.” — Wall Street Daily

Markus Fischer’s TED talk