One of the vexing issues with drones is that the potential safety risk they pose to airlines. There have been numerous instances where these machines have been sighted in restricted areas around airports or hovering close to a plane in mid-flight raising the possibility of a collision.
However, new research explains that a biologically-inspired mechanism could improve the navigation prowess of these airborne robots.
Vision researchers Emily Baird and Marie Dacke from Sweden’s Lund University found that an insect like the Panamanian green orchid bee has a unique ability to avoid obstacles in its natural habitat by assessing the intensity of light filtering through holes in leaves or similar obstacles.
Baird used synchrotron radiation to develop three-dimensional images of insect’s vision indicating this skill helps the creatures determine if an opening is large enough for them to fly through.
One of the key advantages the bee’s brain views patterns instead of details allowing it to figure out the best speed and flight route.
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“The system is so simple – it’s highly likely that other animals also use light in this way. The system is ideal for adapting to small, lightweight robots, such as drones. My guess is that this will become a reality within five to 10 years,” Baird said in a statement.
Ultimately, this system could help drones fly independently without human assistance. But Baird and Macke still need to convert these biological results, mathematical models and digital systems to ensure it could work for these bots.
The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.