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RMIT's sensor-equipped MAV in a wind tunnel experiment

Turbulence can be unpleasant enough for passengers in full-sized aircraft, but it's even more of a challenge for unmanned micro air vehicles (MAVs) – a good gust can blow one of the little drones completely off course, or even cause it to crash. That's why a team from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, has looked to birds for a solution. The result is a system that detects turbulence before it buffets the MAV, allowing the aircraft to anticipate it and thus maintain a smoother flight. The technology could also be applicable to regular airplanes.  Read More

A moth in the NCSU flight-assessment rig

We've been hearing a lot about the development of tiny flying sensor-equipped robots, that could be sent into areas such as disaster sites to seek out survivors or survey the damage. However, why go to the trouble of designing those robots from scratch, when there are already ready-made insects that are about the right size? That's the thinking behind research being conducted at North Carolina State University, which is aimed at converting moths into "biobots."  Read More

The robot makes a bee-line for a red cylinder, after learning that 'red is good'

Because of bees' small size, maneuverability and almost machine-like swarm mentality, it shouldn't come as a surprise that scientists are developing tiny flying robots based on the insects. In order to navigate autonomously, however, those robots' artificial bee brains will have to be capable of identifying objects in their environment, and reacting accordingly. Well, thanks to research recently conducted in Berlin, they may soon be able to do so.  Read More

The DelFly Explorer MAV in flight

We've seen autonomous MAVs (micro air vehicles) before, and we've seen flapping-wing MAVs before. According to a group of researchers from the Netherlands' Delft University of Technology, however, we've never seen an autonomous flapping-wing MAV – until now. Yesterday the four-man team announced its DelFly Explorer, which is described as "the first flapping wing Micro Air Vehicle that is able to fly with complete autonomy in unknown environments."  Read More

New York University's flying jellyfish (Photo: Leif Ristroph)

What could be better than a jellyfish-inspired machine that swims underwater? Well, how about one that flies in the air? A group of scientists from New York University have created just such a contraption, and it could have big implications for tiny flying robots.  Read More

With the help of the tiny autopilot, UAVs could be small enough to fit in your pocket

As the word "drone" has become so commonplace that you can literally build a UAV out of anything, researchers are aiming to make the technology smaller and more usable in everyday practice. Bart Remes, project manager at the Micro Aerial Vehicle Laboratory at the TU Delft faculty of Aerospace Engineering, has led a group of researchers to the creation of the world's smallest autopilot.  Read More

Harvard's RoboBees could one day work together in search and rescue operations (Photo: Kev...

Almost since the beginning of their existence, robots have taken inspiration from one of nature's wonders: insects. Technological limitations typically prevent these robots from matching the small size of their many-legged muses, resulting in gargantuan examples like Festo's BionicOpter dragonfly. In stark contrast is Harvard's RoboBee, which is the first in the world to demonstrate controlled flight by an insect-sized robot.  Read More

Researchers at UPenn's GRASP Lab have replicated how a bird of prey grasps objects mid-fli...

Here's something you don't see everyday: a Micro Unmanned Aerial vehicle (MAV) that can grab objects on the fly with all the elegance of an eagle snatching a fish from the water's surface. Although MAVs and UAVs are increasingly being equipped to pick up, transport, and drop off payloads, we've never seen this incredibly precise form of grasping on the fly replicated – until now.  Read More

Harvard researchers are developing a feedback controller that should allow the Robobee to ...

Harvard researchers are getting closer to their goal of developing a controllable micro air vehicle called the Robobee. The tiny robot was already capable of taking off under its own power, but until now it was completely out of control. By adding two control actuators beneath its wings, the robot can be programmed to pitch and roll.  Read More

Scientists are working on creating a computer model of the honey bee's brain, which they p...

Honey bees are fascinating creatures. They live harmoniously in large communities, divided into different castes, with some of the worker bees heading out on daily expeditions to gather nectar and pollen from flowers. Already, a study has suggested that the efficient method in which bees visit those flowers could inspire the improvement of human endeavors such as the building of faster computer networks. Now, scientists from the Universities of Sheffield and Sussex hope to build a computer model of the honey bee’s brain, with the ultimate hope of using it to control tiny autonomous flying robots.  Read More

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