Dutch engineers have developed a novel insect-inspired flying-wing robot, whose exceptional flight qualities can open up new drone applications. The robot 'DelFly Nimble' is developed by TU Delft researchers from the Micro Air Vehicle Laboratory (MAVLab). The experiments on this first autonomous, free-flying and agile flapping-wing robot are carried out in collaboration with Wageningen University & Research.
The study published on September 14 in the journal Science described the lightweight flying robot that powered and controlled flight by flapping wings like flies, thus allowing it not only to hover on the spot and fly in any direction but also be very agile, a website reported.
As in flying insects, the robot's flapping wings, beating 17 times per second, not only generated the lift force needed to stay airborne but also control the flight via minor adjustments in the wing motion.
"The robot has a top speed of 25 km/h and can even perform aggressive maneuvers, such as 360-degree flips, resembling loops and barrel rolls," said Matej Karasek, the first author of the study and main designer of the robot.
"Moreover, the 33cm wingspan and 29gram robot has, for its size, excellent power efficiency, allowing 5 minutes of hovering flight or more than a 1km flight range on a fully charged battery," said Karasek from Delft University of Technology.
Also, the maneuvers performed by the robot closely resembled those observed in fruit flies.
The robot was even able to demonstrate how fruit flies control the turn angle to maximise their escape performance.
The MAVLab has been developing insect-inspired flying robots for over 10 years within the DelFly project. “Insect-inspired drones have a high potential for novel applications, as they are light-weight, safe around humans and are able to fly more efficiently than more traditional drone designs, especially at smaller scales. However, until now, these flying robots had not realised this potential since they were either not agile enough - such as our DelFly II - or they required an overly complex manufacturing process,” says Prof Guido de Croon - the MAVLab scientific leader.
The DelFly Nimble will be further developed within the TTW project, 'As nimble as a bee'.
(Image Courtesy: Delft University Of Technology)