Engineers create robots that fly like insects, possibly advancing drone technology

The insect-inspired winged bot could reveal how insects perform precise aerial manoeuvres.

Dutch engineers have developed a novel insect-inspired flying-wing robot, whose exceptional flight qualities can open up new drone applications.

The study published on Thursday, 13 September in the journal Science described the lightweight flying robot that powered and controlled flight by flapping wings like flies, thus allowing it not only to hover on the spot and fly in any direction but also be very agile, Xinhua reported.

DelFly Nimble in stationary flight. Image courtesy: Delft

DelFly Nimble in stationary flight. Image courtesy: Delft

As in flying insects, the robot's flapping wings, beating 17 times per second, not only generated the lift force needed to stay airborne but also control the flight via minor adjustments in the wing motion.

"The robot has a top speed of 25 km/h and can even perform aggressive maneuvers, such as 360-degree flips, resembling loops and barrel rolls," said Matej Karasek, the first author of the study and main designer of the robot.

"Moreover, the 33 cm wingspan and 29 gram robot has, for its size, excellent power efficiency, allowing 5 minutes of hovering flight or more than a 1 km flight range on a fully charged battery," said Karasek from Delft University of Technology.

Also, the maneuvers performed by the robot closely resembled those observed in fruit flies.

The robot was even able to demonstrate how fruit flies control the turn angle to maximize their escape performance.

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