Bug off: US navy planning winged, insect-like microdrone


The US military has ordered the development of tiny micro-drones whose shape and wing flapping movements emulate the flight of insects. The super tiny ship offers incredible camouflage while gathering intelligence and monitoring missions that are really meant to disrupt enemies.

“I’m not a drone – just a snoop”

The Elite Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has partnered with innovative prototype specialist Arion Health LLC to develop a model for insect-sized micro-drones. Starting with a patent dating back to 2014, the goal is to make tiny vehicles capable of changing wing flaps to maintain or change speed like insects and birds do. The first drafts include a remote-controlled operating system that interacts with a variety of speed and state profiles that moderate the wing movements stored on the drone.

According to a press release announcing the partnership, the project will:

(A) Biomimetic microrobot aircraft for performing insect-like maneuvers with two physical actuators with minimal computing power of the computer. Controllable forces would be generated by the wings based on position and speed profiles, resulting in time-varying wing upstroke and downstroke that can sometimes be asymmetrical.

The bug drone known as Micro Air Vehicles (MAV) is used, among other things, for “in-the-open surveillance, air swarm operations and situational awareness on the battlefield”. A critical application will be to approach enemy forces or ships and spy on them before they can reach battlefield conflicts.

Microdrones master six degrees of flight

In doing this work, MAV will be able to achieve six degrees of flight – up, down, back and forth, left or right – that can be determined by the remote pilots based on mission plans or challenges they encounter.

The agreement between the AFRL and Arion stipulates that the latter will deliver a working prototype sometime in 2022. (An actual, ready-to-use drone must be developed and perfected from there.) It also grants Arion AFRL license rights that will oversee any marketing and revenue management of end-of-life operations.

“We were excited to license our technology to a small company building strategic relationships in the drone industry,” said Joshua Laravie, technology transfer specialist and national alliance program manager for AFRL’s Aerospace Systems Directorate. “[We] look forward to supporting their efforts to commercialize an AF technology. “

These future MAV are described by both military and corporate users as being designed for flight. Business missions can include access and inspection of tight or cramped spaces such as pipes or tubes, or even the inside of large machines and complicated infrastructures.

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