Why we write about this topic:
This new theory could be a groundbreaking discovery to better understand insect flight patterns and consequently accelerate the development of small autonomous drones.
Scientists from TU Delft and Aix Marseille Université have come up with a new theory of how insects determine their sense of gravity when they fly, which could have implications for the construction of small autonomous drones, as noted in a press release.
As explained in the article, the way insects determined the direction of gravity and accelerated during flight was still a mystery to scientists. Since they do not represent a specific sense organ, there has been no clear evidence of how they distinguish above from below. However, new evidence suggests that insects use visual motion detection in combination with their movements to give them a sense of direction.
This possible explanation for their flight habits is not only an important biological discovery, but also a technological one. Drones usually have accelerometers to help them fly, but implementing the insect flight model could open the doors to a new generation of devices. More specifically, this innovative theory could support the automation of small, bug-sized autonomous drones.
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logic behind this discovery
Be it drones, insects or human pilots, a sense of gravity is essential when flying. For example, a pilot flying through the clouds could become disoriented, which is why the aircraft’s altimeter provides this. While drones use accelerometers, insects use “optical flow,” according to the study.
Optical flow is the relative motion comparing an observer’s view and the environment as three appear to be moving while riding on a train. Insects combine this optical flow with motion models to determine the direction of gravity. This method could be applied to robotics, and tiny insect drones could become a reality.