- Charl Jooste
Revolutionary Drones Take Inspiration From Nature
Updated: Sep 3, 2020
Image: Animal Dynamics
Miniature drones or UAVs that can handle poor weather, particularly high wind speeds are now a reality thanks to detailed studies of nature, birds and flying insects in particular. Alex Caccia and his team from Animal Dynamics have produced a groundbreaking drone that can operate with agility and accuracy in strong winds. The design takes much of its inspiration from the humble but majestic dragonfly.
Man has studied and applied the wonders of nature since the beginning of time. Biomimicry is the term we give this concept and we can see examples throughout history. It is seen in transport, architecture, technology and a range of designs and applications. Some of the most famous examples are water harvesting, wind turbines, electronic color screens and even useful Velcro. When this is combined with moving functional parts we call it biomechanics.
Animal Dynamics has been around since 2105 and they have already developed two successful drones based on their scientific studies of insect and bird flight. They intimately study the design and mechanics and, through the use of advanced technology, emulate these features to create effective real-world applications.
Their latest creation is getting a lot of attention. They have dubbed their new development Skeeter and it is backed and funded by the military. Because of this, development has been relatively hush-hush but we now have some details on this incredible device.
Animal Dynamics spent more than 4 years building the software for Skeeter. The drone can be launched by hand and will fly effectively, even accurately avoiding obstacles or hovering in wind speed of 20 knots plus. This has always been a challenge for drones and UAVs especially the smaller ones. Thanks to inspiration from the dragonfly and other flying creatures, combined with advanced technology, this is now a reality.
Alex Caccia stated: "A dragonfly is an awesome flyer. It's just insane how beautiful they are, nothing is left to chance in that design. It has very sophisticated flight control." They have managed to harness this brilliance in developing Skeeter. There are massive military applications as well as numerous uses in other protection or rescue services as well as humanitarian efforts.
Another advantage is that they are able to produce it at a low cost. If some are lost under extreme conditions it is a manageable expense and certainly cheaper, safer and more effective than most alternatives. Skeeter carries communication and video equipment for accurate real-time operations. It currently measures 8 inches in length but future developments will see it being produced in more compact models.
Biomechanics professor, Adrian Thomas, explains that the light wings and unique design allow Skeeter to fly with much lower energy requirements and greater agility compared to traditional drone designs. Another massive advantage over rotor systems is that Skeeter has great durability and can handle impact or crashes way better than most drones.
The team at Animal Dynamics does not only give credit to nature but acknowledges the benefits derived from the smartphone industry. Many of these developments have helped them produce compact lightweight drones that are powerful and effective.
Another Animal Dynamics creation is the Stork. This UAV is a utility device designed to carry payloads. It is highly robust and makes use of a parasail wing. This is an ideal solution for deliveries or essential collections in remote or hostile areas.
This combination of understanding nature, science, technology, mechanics and other disciplines bodes well for future drone applications. These will be great for the military or security services but will also play a significant role in commercial applications as well as humanitarian benefits.