A creepy flying robot which darts through the air like an insect has been unveiled.
The machine is called DelFly Nimble and is based on the humble fruit fly, featuring wings which beat 17 times per second to propel it to speeds of more than 15 miles per hour.
It’s nimble too and is capable of performing barrel rolls and even loop the loops.
A view of the ever-so-slightly terrifying robot insect (Photo: Delfly/ SWNS.COM)The slightly terrifying ‘droid is the first autonomous, free-flying and agile flapping-wing robot. It was developed by TU Delft researchers from the Micro Air Vehicle Laboratory (MAVLab) in collaboration with Wageningen University & Research.
It is so far unmatched in its performance, and yet has a simple and easy-to-produce design.
Its flapping wing not only generates the lift force needed to stay airborne but also control the flight via minor adjustments in the wing motion.
The control mechanisms have proved to be highly effective, allowing it to hover on the spot, fly in any direction and be agile like a fruit fly – despite being more than 55 times larger.
Dr Matej Karasek, the designer of the fly bot, said: ‘The robot has a top speed of 25 km/h and can even perform aggressive manoeuvres, such as 360-degree flips, resembling loops and barrel rolls.
‘Moreover, the 33 cm wingspan and the 29-gram robot have, for its size, excellent power efficiency, allowing five minutes of hovering flight or more than a one km flight range on a fully charged battery.’
The MAVLab has been developing insect-inspired flying robots for over 10 years within the DelFly project.
The Delfly Nimble in flight (Photo: Delfly/ SWNS.COM)Scientific leader Professor Guido de Croon, said: ‘Insect-inspired drones have a high potential for novel applications, as they are light-weight, safe around humans and are able to fly more efficiently than more traditional drone designs, especially at smaller scales.
‘However, until now, these flying robots had not realised this potential since they were either not agile enough – such as our DelFly II – or they required an overly complex manufacturing process.’
But DelFly Nimble builds on established manufacturing methods, uses off-the-shelf components, and its flight endurance is long enough to be of interest for real-world applications.
The robot is also easily programmed so it can study insect flight thanks to the collaboration with Wageningen University.
Prof Florian Muijres from Wageningen’s Experimental Zoology group said: ‘When I first saw the robot flying, I was amazed at how closely its flight resembled that of insects, especially when manoeuvring.
The fly can hover, dart left or right and even do a loop the loop or barrel roll (Photo: Delfly/ SWNS.COM)‘I immediately thought we could actually employ it to research insect flight control and dynamics.’
The robot was programmed to mimic the hypothesised control actions of fruit flies during high-agility escape manoeuvres, such as those used when we try to swat them.
Its manoeuvres closely resembled those observed in fruit flies and was even able to demonstrate how fruit flies control the turn angle to maximise their escape performance.
Dr Karasek added: ‘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.”
The study was published in the journal Science.
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