Once deployed into the real world, drones will be faced with the extremely tricky task of dealing with the elements, which could be extreme heat, the freezing cold, torrential rain or thunderstorms.
The most challenging problem for airborne robots will be strong winds and whirlwinds, which a research team, from the University of North Caroline at Chapel Hill, University of California and The Johns Hopkins University, have begun to tackle by studying the hawk moth.
In their study, the researchers flew hawk moths through a number of different whirlwind conditions in a vortex chamber, carefully examining the mechanisms that the hawk moths used to successfully regain flight control.
Researchers must also find a way of reducing the amount of power that is required to operate drones, which a team from the Universit de Sherbrooke and Stanford University have achieved by creating a "jumpglider".
Inspired by vertebrates like the flying squirrel, the flying fish and the flying snake, which use their aerodynamic bodies to extend their jumping range to avoid predators, the "jumpglider" combines an aeroplane-shaped body with a spring-based mechanical foot that propels the robot into the air.
The researchers believe the "jumpglider" can be used in search and rescue efforts, operating at low power and offering a significant advantage over land-based robots by being able to navigate around obstacles and over rough terrain.
In his opening editorial, Guest Editor of the special issue, Dr David Lentink, from Stanford University, writes: "Flying animals can be found everywhere in our cities. From scavenging pigeons to alcohol-sniffing fruit flies that make precision landings on our wine glasses, these
|Contact: Michael Bishop|
Institute of Physics