Flying animals both power and control flight by flapping their wings. This enables small natural flyers such as insects to hover close to a flower, but also to rapidly escape danger, which everyone has witnessed when trying to swat a fly. Animal flight has always drawn the attention of biologists, who not only study their complex wing motion patterns and aerodynamics, but also their sensory and neuro-motor systems during such agile manoeuvres. Recently, flying animals have also become a source of inspiration for robotics researchers, who try to develop lightweight flying robots that are agile, power-efficient and even scalable to insect sizes.
Novel highly agile flying robot
TU Delft researchers from the MAVLab have developed a novel insect-inspired flying robot; so far unmatched in its performance, and yet with a simple and easy-to-produce design. As in flying insects, the robot’s flapping wings, beating 17 times per second, not only generate the lift force needed to stay airborne but also control the flight via minor adjustments in the wing motion. Inspired by fruit flies, the robot’s control mechanisms have proved to be highly effective, allowing it not only to hover on the spot and fly in any direction but also be very agile.