Flying robot in the works

Mindy Sparks
September 15, 2018

Scientists behind the technology based it on the wing movements of fruit flies, and claim it could revolutionise our understanding of insect flight.

A nimble insect-inspired micro-drone could lead to a new generation of lightweight, agile flying machines, its creators have said.

Now a team of Dutch researchers has built a flying robot that uses flapping wings to bank and hover like a winged animal. Apart from its further potential in insect flight research, the robot's exceptional flight qualities open up new drone applications. It flaps wings rapidly, 17 times per second like a fruit fly. The number of beast also allows the controller to operate the robot through minor adjustments in the wing motion. MAVLab has been building insect-like robots for over a decade. It zips about at 25 km/h and can perform flips, barrel rolls, and 180-degree maneuvers.

"When I first saw the robot flying, I was amazed at how closely its flight resembled that of insects, especially when manoeuvring", said experimental zoologist Florian Muijres from Wageningen.

The DelFly Nimble was able to demonstrate how fruit flies control their turn angles to maximise "escape performance". According to the report, the robot's unique bioinspired flight capabilities provide an effective new analog for studying a range of demanding insect flight tasks, including takeoff, landing, quick turns and skillful chasing.


One example would be to have artificial fruit flies keep a watchful eye on fruit plantations to catch actual fruits flies in time before they can do any damage, said study co-author Guido de Croon, also from Delft University.

An agile flapping-wing robot created to better illuminate the full range of movement associated with free flight reveals new insights into how flying insects like the fruit fly perform rapid banked turns, often used for escaping predators. "However, until now, these flying robots had not realized this potential since they were either not agile enough - such as our DelFly II - or they required an overly complex manufacturing process". "In contrast to animal experiments, we were in full control of what was happening in the robot's "brain".

For instance, experiments with the robot's rapid banked turns revealed that fruit flies control the rotation of their body around the vertical axis, also known as yaw, with the help of "a passive coupling effect", Karasek pointed out.

The DelFly Nimble will be further developed within the TTW project, "As nimble as a bee", which is a collaboration between TU Delft and Wageningen University, funded by the Dutch science foundation NWO.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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