For the film Lady Hawk the special effects people built a very cool, radio controlled animatronic hawk. I had the good fortune of being asked to build a board to automate the old movie prop – to make it move as part of a display for a theater lobby.
Beneath the taxidermy the hawk contains a radio receiver and many servos which operate its 7 axises of motion: wings, tail, beak, body, and 3-axis head motion. My goal was to make the hawk put on little performances on a regular interval, such as taking off, begging for food, or talking. (Of course it doesn’t talk or take off, it just looks like it is trying to!) The easiest way to do this is with some kind of automatic electronic system…
I ultimately designed and built a microcontroller board to interface with the RC aircraft controllers it uses. Here is a video of the hawk functioning under automatic control (and a closeup of the head motion). Yes, its motions are rather mechanical looking, but that is mainly due to the difficulty of manipulating many axises of motion simultaneously.
The controller board is based around a microcontroller (Microchip’s PIC16F627) which sends voltage signals to the radio controllers through resistor (summing) networks and op-amps. Here are some photos of that controller at various stages of development:
Overall this project was one of the more enjoyable I have worked on, as non-technical people can also appreciate the result. I hope the hawk enjoys its new home!