Mini Helicopter Masters Insect Navigation Trick

Posted on February 12, 2007  Comments (3)

Mini helicopter masters insect navigation trick:

A miniature robotic helicopter has revealed a simple yet effective visual trick that lets insects fly so adeptly without sophisticated avionics.

As insects fly forwards the ground beneath them sweeps backwards through their field of view. This “optical flow” is thought to provide crucial cues about speed and height. For example, the higher an insect’s altitude, the slower the optical flow; the faster it flies, the faster the optical flow.

Previous experiments involving bees suggest that optical flow is crucial to landing. Maintaining a constant optical flow while descending should provide a constant height-to-groundspeed ratio, which makes a bee slowdown as it approaches the ground. Distorting this optical flow can cause them to crash land instead.

Related: Autonomous Flying VehiclesWorld’s Lightest Flying RobotWhy Insects Can’t Fly Straight at Night

3 Responses to “Mini Helicopter Masters Insect Navigation Trick”

  1. CuriousCat: Robo Insect Flight
    July 20th, 2007 @ 6:58 pm

    “Recreating a fly’s efficient movements in a robot roughly the size of the real insect was difficult, however, because existing manufacturing processes couldn’t be used to make the sturdy, lightweight parts required.”

  2. Anonymous
    September 3rd, 2008 @ 2:55 pm

    Do you think that scientists will be able to harness optical flow into a RC helicopter or airplane concept? I was searching YouTube and found a guy measuring optical flow from a small video camera in his helicopter. You can see it here.

    It seem we have much to learn from our winged insects friends. Maybe someone from the iRobot Cooperation can figure this one out with all of their MIT background and training?

  3. Nick
    November 6th, 2011 @ 11:09 am

    Wow, that’s a brilliant discovery that could really aid novice rc heli flyers if it could be incorporated in models. Flying these little helis is becoming alot easier with the incorporation of 3 dimensional gyros to aid stability but landing them is always a high risk manoeuvre for the novice.

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