UI hosts technology showcase

UI hosts technology showcase

CHAMPAIGN — Bird strikes cause an estimated $400 million a year in damage to U.S. aircraft.

But if Soon-Jo Chung is successful, those who deal with airplanes will have a novel way to strike back.

Chung, an assistant professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Illinois, wants to develop robotic falcons to scare birds away.

Ideally, those aerial drones will move like real falcons, which have been shown effective in keeping birds away from planes.

Chung outlined his plans to venture capitalists and other technology mavens at the second annual "Share The Vision" event sponsored by the UI's Office of Technology Management.

About 35 UI professors and researchers made 20-minute presentations on cutting-edge technologies Thursday at the I Hotel and Conference Center. Afterward, they often met one-on-one with investors and corporate representatives interested in those technologies.

The presenters came from a variety of disciplines, including life science, computer science and materials science.

Lesley Millar, director of the Office of Technology Management, said 290 people registered for the event, which continues Friday at the UI Research Park. Pharmaceutical companies and venture capital funds were among those in the audience.

The event attracted guests not only from Chicago, St. Louis and Indianapolis, but also from San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, Minneapolis and New Jersey, she said.

As a result of last year's event, at least one UI venture — Brett Walker's Electroninks Inc. — got start-up funding, and another venture was successful in licensing its technology, Millar said.

Plus, faculty had at least 29 follow-up conversations with guests that laid the groundwork for future relationships, she said.

During the presentation on robotic falcons, Chung said remote-control airplanes have been used to chase off birds, but the birds came back.

The U.S. Air Force had longer-lasting success using real falcons as a deterrent, but it's expensive to train falcons, he said.

So Chung proposes developing an aerial drone that "flies like, looks like and smells like" a falcon.

Simulating a drone that moves like a bird or bat isn't easy. It involves issues of dynamics and control, he said.

"It's not just wings moving up and down," but creating a creature that can make 180-degree turns with three wing strokes, he added.

The developer must consider moves such as flapping, twisting and cambering and the ability to switch between gliding and flapping. Wing articulation and wing flexibility must be considered as well, Chung said.

The device must also be safe, he said, contrasting it with a design with fast-spinning rotors that could pose a hazard.