Drones with bee-inspired wings may be the solution to allowing unmanned aerial vehicles to fly in poor weather and efficiently round the streets of our cities.
It may sound slightly peculiar, but that’s what Glenn Smith the CEO and co-founder of MapleBird is trying to build.
Smith and his team have been working on creating drones that are “palm sized, it’s about the size of your hand basically and weighs around 20 grams.”
The small aircraft, like many robotics projects which are being worked upon, are based around the efficiencies in flight that have evolved in nature.
He said the drones are based on honey bees as they fly well in poor weather, an ability that drones may help drones to be able to fly in strong winds and rain.
“In reality why you want to do that is to make things that can fly in the real world in windy and dusty conditions,” Smith said in an interview with Factor at the Re.Work Robotics Forum in London, where he was speaking about the drones.
“Quadcopters and the like, they can hover and they can move forward at a decent speed but as they begin to get smaller they become really affected by gusty conditions and those are the conditions that are prevalent in cities, you have wind sheers, you go around buildings so this becomes something that they need to deal with.
“They don’t want to be blowing around they need to be able to control their position well.”
However Maplebird isn’t the only company that has looked to imitate the biology of a bee.
Harvard University has developed Robobees, which are the size of bees and have been made to be autonomous.
The American university’s bees may be able to be used to help pollinate a field of crops, as well as everything from search and rescue missions to traffic monitoring.
Smith’s hand-sized drones have many of the same potential applications as the smaller versions created by Harvard. In particular he pointed out the potential use for ‘eyes in the sky’ and industrial monitoring, as they are able to put up to five cameras on the flying devices.
However the technology still needs some work before it will be flying around our cities.
Smith said that the company have developed an engine that allows them to replicated the beating of a bee’s wings.
“What we’re really doing right now is making sure our flight platform works correctly so when you get it in the air,” he said.
“So there’s two elements to that one is getting it taking off the ground, getting all the lift and thrust that we need, which we are developing rapidly, but in conjunction with that we are also developing the control systems that you need to fly stability and the communication to that. We’re working on both of those at the moment.”
Featured image courtesy of MapleBird