Robotic Fruit Fly Won’t Eat Your Fruit

The DelFly project has been busy since the last time we checked in on them. The Dutch team started 13 years ago and produced the smallest camera-carrying drone, and an autonomous tiny ornithopter. However, that ornithopter — now five years old — had to use some traditional control surfaces and a tail like an airplane which was decidedly not fruit fly-like. Now they’ve solved those problems and have announced the DelFly Nimble, a 13 inch and 1-ounce ornithopter. You can see the Nimble in the video below.

The close emulation of a real fly means the thing looks distinctly insect-like in flight. The dual wings use Mylar and form an X configuration. They flap about 17 times per second. A fully charged battery  — remember, the whole thing weighs an ounce — lasts five minutes. With an efficient speed of 3 meters per second, the team claims a flight range of over 1 kilometer with a peak speed that can reach  7 meters per second. It can even take a payload, as long as that payload weighs 4 grams or less.

The tiny robot has two rotary servo actuators, one for each pair of wings, along with two flapping mechanisms. There are a lot of technical details on their website, but it caught our eye that the flight computer is an STM32 microcontroller.

We assumed this had some sort of spy application, but DelFly says they want to use the machine to study insect flight dynamics. We’ll take that at face value.

If you want to see the previous revision which clearly had an airplane tail and control surfaces, we looked at it earlier. If you are wondering what the world looks like to an autonomous fruit fly, we can help with that, too.

Photos courtesy of TU Delft, CC BY-SA 4.0

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