Its creators, Leif Ristroph and Stephen Childress, both of New York University, devised a new way for robots and drones to move based on the movements of a jellyfish. The drone has four petal-like flaps that move up and down. Its movement allows the “jellyfish” to ascend, descend, stay in place, and move around wherever its needed.
The scientists changed their thinking as they realized the traditional method for propelling small objects like robots and drones through air was very complicated. Earlier methods were based on insect flight using flapping wings at the side of the unit to move around. In order to do that, the insect method required constant monitoring of wind direction and pressure, predators nearby, objects it could crash into, dangerous areas to land and things like that.
But with the jellyfish model, the unit is able to move wherever it needs to go without the constant calculations. I still don’t see how that solves the problem of crashing into things, but for now, this is still a research unit, so we’ll let them figure that out.
Ristroph said he “devised a new way of flapping-wing flight that doesn’t need any sort of control or feedback system to be stable, and is akin to the swimming motions of the jellyfish.” The prototype (see photo at top) measures 8 cm wide and weighs 2 grams.
The goal is to create an extremely lightweight and agile flyer that can get into tight spaces and secure places. That sets up a good news, bad news dilemma.
On the plus side, authorities could use these drones for surveillance of dangerous situations like hostage taking episodes, monitoring gang violence, and other police related endeavors. In addition, they could help with search and rescue operations to quickly cover ground and find the victims in the tiny spaces between collapsed buildings. They say these units can also be launched to monitor the atmosphere as well as traffic conditions. They would also be handy to use for surveillance during times of war.
The down side is the government could use it to spy on its own citizens.
Not Quite There Yet
There is still a long way to go for this prototype to turn into a working, viable drone. But it seems the researchers and their peers are working hard to make it a reality one day soon.
Til the next time!