Birds, Bats, Insects and Snakes Inspire Future Drones

Scientists use mechanisms found in nature to contribute to agriculture, search and rescue, and military surveillance.
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Scientists use mechanisms found in nature to contribute to agriculture, search and rescue, and military surveillance.
biodrones

Photo Credit: Institute of Physics

Scientists have turned toward the mechanisms used by birds, bats, insects and snakes to inspire microbots. These drones of the future will be used in agriculture pollination, search and rescue, military surveillance, courier services, and insect flight studies. Researchers are also hoping to use these microbots in urban environments. 

"Flying animals can be found everywhere in our cities. From scavenging pigeons to alcohol-sniffing fruit flies that make precision landings on our wine glasses, these animals have quickly learnt how to control their flight through urban environments to exploit our resources," Dr. David Lentink of Stanford University wrote in the May 23 special issue of journal Bioinspiration and Biomimetics. 

A collection of these microbots have already been used to aid search and rescue operations in hazardous areas, such as the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. A research team in Hungary are hoping to improve these microbots further by putting them to work in tandem with the help of an algorithm they developed to allow them, for example, to fly like a flock of birds. 

At Harvard University, researchers have developed a drone measuring at just a millimeter for exploration in small, tight spaces. This microbot is able to take off, land and hover, much like a fly. To combat issues such as strong winds and whirlwinds, Researchers from North Carolina, California and Johns Hopkins Universities are mocking the movements of a hawk.