Thursday, April 24, 2008

Festo AirJelly - the flying jellyfish - now more information in English

On Tuesday we reported about the amazing AirJelly the jellyfish that gracefully flies through the air. Unfortunately there wasn't much information in English available. But that has changed now. We found the press release by Festo which you can access here or read the piece about the AirJelly right here and the fulyl release on Scribd. You can also go directly to Festo and get high resolution press pictures of the AirJelly here. Also check out the Video of the AirJelly on YouTube.
Air is the element of the AirJelly. Rather than swimming through water like the AquaJelly, it glides through the air with the aid of its central electric drive and an intelligent, adaptive mechanical system. The remote-controlled AirJelly is kept in the air by its helium-filled ballonet.

The AirJelly’s only energy source are two lithium-ion-polymer batteries, to which the central electric drive is attached. This transmits its power to a bevel gear and then to eight spur gears, which drive the eight tentacles of the jellyfish via their respective cranks. The structure of each tentacle is based on the Fin Ray Effect®. Using a peristaltic movement to drive a balloon was previously unknown in the history of aviation. The AirJelly is the first indoor flying object to use such a peristaltic propulsion system. The jellyfish glides gently through the air thanks to this new drive concept based on the reaction thrust principle.

The AirJelly steers through three-dimensional environments by shifting its weight. Its two servo motors are located at the “North pole” of the jellyfish and controlled proportionally. If the pendulum moves in one direction, the AirJelly’s centre of gravity shifts in this direction – the AirJelly is thus able to swim in any spatial direction. The propulsive force of the drive can be varied by moving the Fin Ray® tentacles more quickly or slowly.

Festo demonstrates with this exhibit that a central electric drive – combined with an intelligent mechanical system – can offer fascinating possibilities for “lighter-than-air” aviation. Festo aims to delight its customers with innovative, fascinating and intelligent solutions in both automation and didactics. It therefore offers a wide range of electric, pneumatic and hybrid drive systems, together with the respective sensors and control possibilities.
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Reminds me a little bit of the Microdrones that were making the rounds on the internet recently. Although this is admittedly cooler, given that 1. it's a jellyfish and 2. the concept of using helium in a microdrone-like design is quite novel. Not quite as useful for surveillance purposes as a Microdrone, but still quite a feat of engineering. Thumbs up.

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