Researchers at New York University’s Applied Math Lab unveiled a new drone inspired by nature that mimics the movement of a jellyfish. While it might sound like something destined for an aquatic life, this jellyfish drone can actually fly. Weighing just 2.1 grams (about 0.07-ounces), it’s so light that flapping its mechanical membrane allows the tiny machine to propel itself up into the air.
Although it’s inspired by a jellyfish, the drone shares many characteristics with an insect. For one thing it has four petal-shaped wings that resemble those of an insect. The special thing about NYU’s drone is that the wings have been pointed downward instead of being arranged on the sides like an airplane. The researchers say this makes the jellyfish drone much more stable in the air. Whereas planes need tails to stabilize themselves, and helicopters have a second rotor, the jellyfish can achieve stable hovering using flapping wings alone.
The jellyfish design allows the drone to produce a good lift without needing a stability sensor to weight it down. In fact, there isn’t very much to it at all, as it only has a small motor with no sensors or batteries to add weight.
The scientists believe that their small flapping wing design could be used to create a new type of aircraft for multiple applications ranging from surveillance and reconnaissance missions to traffic and air quality monitoring. Next up the team is working on improving this drone. Currently it needs to be connected to a power source with a tiny wire, but they would like to see it fly free one day.
Images © NYU Applied Math Lab