Robot Dragonfly, First Of Its Kind, Flaps Wings And Avoids Obstacles On Its Own

robot-dragonfly-DelFly_ExplorerA robot dragonfly developed by Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands is the first of its kind and is able to flap its wings and dodge obstacles unaided by humans.

We’re not sure how much of a boast it really is, but the Delft University of Technology is proud to boast that they have created the first autonomous vehicle that can flap its wings and dodge obstacles without having a human at the controls.

According to Guilo de Croon, an assistant professor that helped design and engineer the device, it is the first Micro Air Vehicle (MAV) that flies and avoids objects on its own.

Unaided Or Unimpeded?

The DelFly Explorer flies unaided by humans, although it might be better to say unimpeded by humans. It utilises a special vision system that enables it to detect objects, and then uses this information to fly around those objects. Two cameras and a minute onboard camera make up the binocular system, and while this is impressive, it pales in comparison to the 30,000 eye facets of a real dragonfly.

Dragonfly eyes capture tens of thousands of images at any given moment before utilising eight pairs of descending visual neurons to convert those images into a useful picture. They can “see” UV light and light polarization, while benefiting from a 360° field of vision.

The DelFly Explorer weighs about the same as a few sheets of paper, or 20 grams, which makes it incredibly lightweight for an MAV. However, it also means that it is nearly 7,000 times heavier than a real dragonfly, which weighs 0.003g.

Not wanting to take anything away from the achievements of the DelFly designers, though, the natural Dragonfly is a born predator and it has a veracious appetite. They will continue to eat as long as they have prey to feed on, and one Harvard researcher witnessed a single dragonfly eat 30 flies in quick succession, only stopping because it had run out of things to eat. The DelFly needs recharging every nine minutes, although this figure is likely to improve with further development.

MAVs are unmanned insect like drones that can be used for anything from exploring uncharted territories to spying on the neighbours. They can be used for journalism, photography, monitoring population, researching wildlife and aiding disaster relief efforts. Or, when they become more affordable, they can be used to follow your husband, spy on the woman next door, and scare the pants out of the cats.

Do unmanned drones get you excited?
Are flapping wings the optimal choice of propeller?


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