Birds and Bees Inspire Drone Navigation
A new video looks at animal studies that provide data for improving flight navigation systems.
CREDIT: Screenshot from video by Maria Stenzel
Aircraft creators have long looked to the birds and the bees for inspiration. The movements and behavior of flying animals show researchers how they might build more stable and agile planes, military drones and flying robots of all sizes.
Even the humble pigeon is adept at avoiding obstacles and turning at right angles while flying. That makes its flight a source of data for the Department of Defense in designing navigation systems, photojournalist Maria Stenzel wrote on the video-sharing site Vimeo. Meanwhile, a swarm of robotic bees that had the collective intelligence of a real-life hive could pollinate plants, help in search and rescue, monitor the weather and spy for the military, according to Harvard University's Robobees lab.
Looking to animals for inspiration means studying them intensely and closely. Stenzel visited the Concord Field Station at Harvard University to see just how closely. She posted a video today on Vimeo, showing how familiar researchers can become with their research subjects, but at the same time, how they need to retain a professional distance. One researcher told her how he feels he can "read the bees."
"They do seem to have personalities, which is annoying," he said, while gently shepherding a bee into a glass vial with his fingertips. "It's annoying for the experimental side of things." Earlier in the video, the same researcher affixed a bee to a needle to watch its wing flaps.