Skip to main content

This insect-inspired robot can fly a kilometer on a charge with its flappy wings

The incredible agility of the common house or fruit fly puts every drone and robot to shame, but devices inspired by them are beginning to catch up. A new four-winged flapping robot not only successfully imitates the fruit fly’s hyper-agile flying method, but can travel for up to a kilometer before running out of juice.

Robotics researchers at the Delft University of Technology wanted to create a flying platform that could imitate and test theories on how insects fly the way they do, but without tethers or non-animal propulsion like propellers.

It’s not just that they want a cool robot: the way insects respond to things like gusts of wind or an imminent slapping hand demonstrate incredible reaction times and control feedback, things that could inform autonomous craft like drones or even small airplanes. Wouldn’t it be nice to know your jet could autonomously and smoothly dodge a lightning bolt?

The trouble is that when you get much bigger than an insect, that method of flying doesn’t always work any more due to the differences in mass, drag, and so on. As the researchers put it in their paper, which made the cover of Science:

Because of technological challenges arising from stringent weight and size restrictions, most existing designs cannot match the flight performance of their biological counterparts; they lack the necessary agility, sufficient power to take off, or sufficient energy to fly for more than a minute.

Not only that, but tiny robots like the Robobee require a wired power connection, and other tiny flapping craft require manual piloting. Can’t have that! So rather than slavishly imitate the biology of a single animal, the team focused on how to achieve similar flight characteristics at a realistic scale.

The four-winged, tailless style of their creation, the DelFly Nimble, is novel but evidently effective. Their robot can go 7 meters per second, or about 15 MPH, hover in place, or perform all kinds of extreme motions like dives and rolls smoothly. It’s no joke doing that using rotors with continuous thrust, let alone via coordinated wing movement. You can see it perform a few more capers in the video here.

Perhaps most amazing is its range; the robot can travel for a kilometer on a single charge. That sort of spec is the kind that military R&D directors love to hear about.

But the DelFly Nimble is already producing interesting scientific data, as lead researcher Matěj Karásek explains:

In contrast to animal experiments, we were in full control of what was happening in the robot’s ‘brain.’ This allowed us to identify and describe a new passive aerodynamic mechanism that assists the flies, but possibly also other flying animals, in steering their direction throughout these rapid banked turns.

Development is continued, and no doubt biologists and three-letter agencies have tendered letters of interest to the Dutch inventors. You can

from TechCrunch


Popular posts from this blog

Android blatantly copies the iPhone X navigation gestures

Google unveiled some of the new features in the next version of Android at its developer conference. One feature looked particularly familiar. Android P will get new navigation gestures to switch between apps. And it works just like the iPhone X.“As part of Android P, we’re introducing a new system navigation that we’ve been working on for more than a year now,” VP of Android Engineering Dave Burke said. “And the new design makes Android multitasking more approachable and easier to understand.”While Google has probably been working on a new multitasking screen for a year, it’s hard to believe that the company didn’t copy Apple. The iPhone X was unveiled in September 2017.On Android P, the traditional home, back and multitasking buttons are gone. There’s a single pill-shaped button at the center of the screen. If you swipe up from this button, you get a new multitasking view with your most recent apps. You can swipe left and right and select the app you’re looking for.If you swipe up o…

Square launches restaurant point-of-sale platform

Square, which has already made its way into retail stores and service-based businesses (think hair salons, massage therapists, etc), is officially getting into the restaurant business with the launch of Square for Restaurants. Square for Restaurants is a point-of-sale system that handles everything from menu updates, floor layouts, employee scheduling, performance tracking to tip splitting.Usually, restaurants have “some old legacy thing or something else,” Square Seller Lead Alyssa Henry told me.“Historically, we’ve not served this customer segment very well,” Henry said. “With Square for Restaurants, we’re excited to finally be able to serve this customer segment and deliver on a couple of key things that are core to Square but also highly valued by sellers of all types.”This new product is designed to be fast, self-serve, elegant and cohesive, Henry said. It also integrates seamlessly into Square’s existing ecosystem that includes Payroll, Capital and more. Given Square’s ownership…

State Farm sponsors popular Fortnite streamer DrLupo

DrLupo, one of the biggest names and most recognizable voices in Fortnite streaming, has closed a sponsorship deal with State Farm.Bejanmin “DrLupo” Lupo has nearly 3 million Twitch followers and often plays with the world’s most popular streamer, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins. Beloved for his talent and his personality alike, Lupo has also worked as a caster for various Fortnite tournaments and events. Last year, DrLupo held a charity stream for St. Jude’s Research Hospital and raised $1.3 million.State Farm Marketing Director Ed Gold had this to say:DrLupo is one of the world’s most followed Fortnite streamers. His philanthropic efforts and massive fanbase make him an ideal partner as we continue to amplify our esports programming and efforts with the gaming community.This marks State Farm’s first sponsorship of an esports athlete. The sponsorship will include support of the stream through branded replays, live in-stream stunts and product integration (here’s me trying to imagine integratin…