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US Air Force Develops Bird-Like Flapping-Wing Micro Drones

A team of researchers at the US Air Force Research Lab has invented a flapping-wing micro aircraft design based on the biomechanical movement of flying birds and insects.

The craft is designed for “open surveillance,” swarm operations, and situational awareness on the battlefield.

According to a statement by Air Force Technology Transfer and Transition, the device enables “a micro-robotic aircraft to perform insect-like maneuvers with two physical actuators while utilizing minimal computer processing power.”

Actuators are components responsible for moving and controlling mechanisms.

Generates Power Through Wing Movement

The device generates power through the wings, “based on their position and velocity, resulting in time-varying wing upstrokes and downstrokes,” the statement added.

“The continuous process of updating the position and velocity, along with user-supplied inputs with a remote controller, will enable flapping-wing micro air vehicle (MAVs) to achieve the desired flight dynamics.”

Capable of ‘Six-Degrees-of-Freedom Flight’

The patented invention also claims to be capable of “six-degrees-of-freedom flight,” one of the major challenges before aircraft engineers trying to replicate “instinctive movements of flying insects and birds.”

The design is based on two patents: “Method for Shaping Wing Velocity Profiles for Control of Flapping Wing Micro Air Vehicles” and “Methods and Apparatus to Achieve Independent Six-Degree Control of Flapping Wing Micro Air Vehicle.”

Approved for Commercial Development

In January, the Department of the Air Force signed a Non-Exclusive Patent License Agreement with Los Angeles-based Airion Health for the development, manufacture, and marketing of the technology.

The agreement stipulates that the firm must develop a “workable prototype” within 15 months of signing the contract.

Airion Health specializes in “solving complex problems for private companies, as well as the United States military,” according to the statement.


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