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Nature Is Inspiring Design Of Next Generation Drones

Update Date: May 25, 2014 05:43 AM EDT

Nature is the most preferred destination for inspirations. In a latest example, researchers have revealed experimental drones whose designs are inspired by birds, bats, insects and even flying snakes. 

The flock of drones include a robot with bird-like grasping appendages and some that form a robo-swarm or flock. 

Researchers said this sort of bio-inspiration is pushing the technology forward because nature through evolution has solved challenges that drone engineers are just beginning to address. 

"There is no drone that can avoid a wind turbine," aerial robotics expert Prof David Lentink, from Stanford University in California told BBC News. "And it is very difficult for drones to fly in urban environments, where there are vast numbers of obstacles to navigate, and turbulent airflow to cope with."

Inspired by insects' "amazing capability of flight in clutter," a team of researchers engineered sensors for their experimental drone based on insects' eyes. The eyes in the drone are tiny cameras connected to an on-board computer that is programmed to steer the drone away from surrounding objects. 

Another team built an eerily accurate robotic copy of a bat wing that demonstrated the wing's remarkable range of movement and flexibility. 

"They deform instead of breaking," explained Prof Lentink. "They are also adapting better to the airflow because they're so flexible."

"I'm very excited about the future of this field," Dr Mirko Kovac, director of the aerial robotics laboratory at Imperial College, London told the BBC.

"There are a lot of tasks that we can do with flying robots, such as sensing pollution, observing and protecting wildlife, or we could use them for search and rescue operations after tsunamis."

The experimental drones have been described in the journal Bioinspiration and Biomimetics.

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