DelFly Nimble: Insect-like flying drone from Delft University could monitor stock in warehouses

DelFly Nimble: Insect-like flying drone from Delft University could monitor stock in warehouses

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One cannot deny the fact that our mother nature has always inspired human achievements and has led to useful materials, tools, methods, systems, and many advantages. This very process of imitating nature’s practices, procedures and mechanisms are called Biomimetics.

It’s worth mentioning here that, the term biomimetics, was coined by Otto H Schmitt in 1969. At present, there are lots of examples such as the use of fins for swimming, airplanes have wings, just like birds and many others.

DelFly Nimble – a superior-agile robot with a quad-wing flapping system

From this perspective, the Delft University of Technology, based out of the Netherlands has created a flying drone with the flight behaviour characteristics of insects. Called as DelFly Nimble, it has an agile design capable of flying in any direction – up, down, forward, backward or sideways.

Nimble can control three axes of flight similar to an insect.

Having said that, it is controlled through insect-inspired adjustments of motion of its two pairs of flapping wings. In addition to that, the lack of the tail makes the DelFly Nimble less vulnerable to damage and highly agile, allowing operation outdoors  during light winds.

Some numbers your reference!

This insect-like drone weighs just 29 grams and measures 33 cm in a wingspan. It can fly for more than 5 minutes on a fully charged battery with a range of more than 1 km. This drone has a thrust-to-weight ratio of more than 1.3 and is capable of carrying an additional payload of up to 4 grams. Moreover, at full throttle, the robot reaches a top speed of 7 m/s (~25 km/h).

Technical stuff ahead!

Similar to insects, the forward/backward, sideways flight is achieved by pitching and rolling the robot’s body into the respective direction. In order to control the body orientation, the robot needs to produce torques around the three orthogonal body axes. In this sense, the robot is equipped with two, independent, flapping mechanisms, one for each wing pair on the sides of the robot.

These are complemented with two rotary servo actuators, one adjusting the dihedral angle by altering the relative orientation of the two flapping mechanisms, and the other actuating the tips of the left and right wing-pair roots.

Rolling is achieved by driving the two wing pairs at different flapping frequencies, which results in a thrust difference creating the torque around the roll axis. Pitch torque is produced by adjusting the dihedral angle (central line of the flapping wings), which shifts the wingbeat-average thrust vectors of the two wing pairs forward or backwards, with respect to the centre of mass.

Fly free and fast

According to the company, the DelFly Nimble drone is ready for real-world applications and tasks. Reportedly, Professor Guido de Croon of Micro Air Vehicle Laboratory said that these drones could be used to monitor stock in warehouses. On the other hand, this opens up a new way of possibilities to study insect flight dynamics and manoeuvres.

Biology as a model

Emulating nature’s mechanisms offers a humongous potential for the improvement of our life and tools we use. With that being said, we humans are making a significant effort to mimic nature, which results in reaching levels of advancements in various fields.

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