Researchers, including one of Indian origin, are developing a new flying technique for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones that will help the machines visually coordinate their flight and navigation just like birds and flying insects do.
The drones will be able to do their work without human input, radar or even GPS satellite navigation, said the team from University of Queensland.
“We study how small airborne creatures such as bees and birds use their vision to avoid collisions with obstacles, fly safely through narrow passages, control their height above the ground and more,” said lead researcher and Professor Mandyam Srinivasan.
“We then use biologically-inspired principles to design novel vision systems and algorithms for the guidance of UAVs,” he added in a university statement.
At first glance, insects and birds have very different brains in terms of size and architecture, yet the visual processing in both animals is very effective at guiding their flight.
“Bees’ brains weigh a 10th of a milligram and carry far fewer neurones than our own brains; yet the insects are capable of navigating accurately to food sources over 10 km away from their hive,” said Srinivasan.
The team compares the flight of bees and budgies in particular because they are easy animals to study.
“The study of their behaviour could also reveal some of the basic principles of visual guidance in a number of organisms including humans,” he noted.
Comparing the flight behaviours of these animals using high-speed cameras will lead to drastically improved UAV guidance systems.
“These UAVs could be incredibly useful for applications like surveillance, rescue operations, defence, and planetary exploration,” Srinivasan explained.