The first Roprey developed by Wingbeat was modelled on the Houbara bustard (Chlamydotis undulata), the ultimate quarry of Arabian falconry. The Robara is an exact replica of an adult male Houbara. However, the real Houbara weighs around 2000g and the Robara weighs less than 1000g. We have spent four years designing the Robara and testing prototypes on falcons ranging in size from male gyr/peregrines through to female gyrfalcons. The Robara is very carefully designed so that it can match the flight performance profiles of the very best falcons, but not exceed them. It is important that the balance between predator and prey is maintained and the Robara must not be so powerful that it can easily outfly the falcon.
The Robara is the same size and shape as a Houbara and can be flown with flapping or fixed wings. Its feather pattern is printed photographically to give it a realistic appearance. This means that it mimics a Houbara, and the falcon treats it as if it was real. When a falcon chases the Robara, the pursuit strongly resembles a natural flight. Once caught, the falcon grips the head in its talons, and upon landing will try to “kill” the Robara by biting its neck, which is covered with a realistic lycra skin.
In the hands of a skilled pilot, the Robara can climb to 500m (1650 feet) in 3 minutes and is very agile. Competition models transmit down real-time data on altitude and airspeed. In level flight the top speed matches that of the falcon – about 23m/sec (50 mph). It can be flown in winds of up to Force 7, but for practical purposes Force 5 is a more realistic upper limit. Its electric internal impeller has a battery life of 5 minutes under full power which is appropriate for competition purposes. When used in training, not under full power, flights can last 8-10 minutes.
The Robara must be safe for the falcon to hit at high speed in a stoop, and to hold on to all the way down to the ground. The external surface is completely smooth with no protruding elements or servos. The head, which takes multiple hard hits from the falcon, is made of a special foam rubber to absorb the forces of the falcon’s stoop. It can be completely crushed when the Robara is accidently flown head first into the ground, thereby absorbing a lot of the impact rather than transmitting it into the fuselage where it could damage the electronics. From the point of view of human Health and Safety, the Robara is very light and soft, and poses little risk to bye-standers, unlike propeller planes and copters.
The Robara has two wing options. The Trainer wing flaps like a live Houbara and looks very realistic. It is great for introducing the young falcons to Roprey as they cannot resist the flapping. It is a simple step from there to hunting wild Houbara. The G-forces and airspeeds in more violent flights are too great for the Trainer wing to withstand. The Sports wing is tougher and has no moving parts. It is designed to fly at higher speeds and perform more advanced manoeuvres. Sports wings experience much rougher treatment and are very simple in their design allowing them to be repaired or replaced easily.
The Robara is designed to be ‘killed’ just like a Houbara. It is designed to be hit, clawed and wrestled to the ground from great heights. It is designed to be broken! We would much rather damage a Robara than injure a precious falcon. To ensure this the Robara is designed to be easily repaired and is modular with interchangeable replaceable parts. Your Robara will soon carry some ‘war wounds’ but it will be able to keep flying!