The question of how bees use their wings to fly has baffled experts for decades, but now bio-robotics researchers at Marseille University in France have created an aerial robot which uses sight to navigate autonomously, just like bees.
Most modern aircraft use an accelerometer for flight stabilization. Living creatures that fly, on the other hand, rely on their own innate sense of balance determined by environmental observation and inbuilt organ-based systems. Using research into bees, scientists have created BeeRotor, a rotorcraft which stabilizes itself visually, without an accelerometer.
Stephane Viollet, is a CNRS researcher at the Institute of Movement Science and Head of the Biorobotics Team and Drones at the Institute Carnot of Marseille: “The idea is to do a lot with few resources, that’s the lesson insects teach us, that you can have completely autonomous behaviour in an unknown environment, without mapping, without GPS, and still manage with few resources.”
The BeeRotor can adjust its speed and avoid obstacles without having to measure gravity, speed or altitude. It replies on visual clues to move around. BeeRotor has been tested flying along a moving platform: even with the absence of an airspeed sensor, the rotorcraft showed it was able to adjust its pitch, its speed, navigate autonomously and land safely.
Franck Ruffier, CNRS research scientist and co-Head of the Biorobotics Research Group at the Institute of Movement Science: “The robot – thanks to its intelligence and its perception of the ground below it, avoids this very tall obstacle.”
But before the BeeRotor can undertake autonomous outdoor flight, scientists will have to adapt its structure to allow for greater stabilization.