A new, flying jellyfish-like machine (w/ Video)

November 24, 2013

Up, up in the sky: It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a... jellyfish? That's what researchers have built—a small vehicle whose flying motion resembles the movements of those boneless, pulsating, water-dwelling creatures.

The work, which will be presented at the American Physical Society's Division of Fluid Dynamics meeting on November 24 in Pittsburgh, demonstrates a new method of flight that could transport miniaturized future robots for surveillance, search-and-rescue, and monitoring of the atmosphere and traffic.

Many approaches to building small aerial robots try to mimic the flight of insects such as . The challenge in that, explained Leif Ristroph of New York University, is that the flapping wing of a fly is inherently unstable. To stay in flight and to maneuver, a fly must constantly monitor its environment to sense every gust of wind or approaching predator, adjusting its flying motion to respond within fractions of a second. To recreate that sort of complex control in a – and to squeeze it into a small robotic frame – is extremely difficult, Ristroph said.

After some tinkering, he devised a new way of flapping-wing flight that doesn't need any sort of control or feedback system to be stable, and is akin to the swimming motions of jellyfish. The , weighing just two grams and spanning eight centimeters in width, flies by flapping four wings that are arranged like petals on a flower. While the up-and-down motion of the wings resembles a pulsating jelly,, the device's ultimate fluttering flight may be more similar to that of a moth. The vehicle can hover, ascend, and fly in a particular direction.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
A jellyfish-like flying machine hovers in air by flapping its four wings 20 times per second. Credit: NYU/L. Ristroph

In addition to showing that the flying device is indeed stable, Ristroph and Stephen Childress, also at NYU, found that the size of the machine mainly depends on the weight and power of the motor.

The prototype is limited: it's attached to an external power source and can't steer, either autonomously or via remote control. Although researchers are still far away from building a practical robot, these new results show a proof of principle, forming a blueprint for designing more sophisticated and complex vehicles, Ristroph said.

And, he adds, the simplicity of design bodes well for miniaturizing the vehicles. The longstanding goal for researchers has been to shrink flying robots down to the size of a centimeter, allowing them to squeeze into small spaces and fly around undetected. The simpler the better, he said. "And ours is one of the simplest, in that it just uses flapping wings."

Explore further: Micro flying robots can fly more effectively than flies

More information: The presentation "Hovering of a jellyfish-like flying machine," is at 2:15 p.m. on Sunday, November 24, 2013 in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Room 305. ABSTRACT: http://meeting.aps.org/Meeting/DFD13/Event/202303

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5 / 5 (1) Nov 24, 2013
2.1 / 5 (7) Nov 24, 2013

Nik, I think we've found that one you were missing....
1 / 5 (10) Nov 24, 2013

Mine is cooler, no lampshade needed:

This one even "flies":

The one featured in four million catalogs a time and the SF MoMA I won't post. It's already too popular, Mr. and Mrs. Envy, stalker creeps who drag your Gorebot carcasses through potentially cool threads like the one for this study, pre-spoiling them, just as your Arab petrodollar mogal guru, Gore, commands you to do, feeding on your wretched inner turmoil to AstroTurf his PR machine. But didn't you hear, Gore already cashed out, the party is *over*.

On topic: how does the motor couple?

[Unbroken web link with no extra info: http://meeting.ap...t/202303 ]

Looks like just a simple radial spinning lever/cam attached to the middle pivot point of elastic strut wings. Yet it flies!

1 / 5 (1) Nov 24, 2013
Tardieboy... Those are some the the ugliest lights I have ever seen.

Now here is a lovely desk lamp...


And another.


Here is an excellent idea.


1 / 5 (8) Nov 24, 2013
V: "Tardieboy... Those are some the the ugliest lights I have ever seen."

...which explains why top European designer Marcel Wanders first considered featuring them in his Moooi.com collection upon meeting me at a trade show, but, inspired, went on instead to develop an LED version called Raimond instead:

Have you ever designed anything, V? Ever worked in a science lab either? You will likely enjoy this utopian statist take on Obama:

Brave New World on the brain, V(E)?
1.5 / 5 (8) Nov 24, 2013
Coming directly to Amazon.com soon! Author Vendicar(E)'s book on diatoms:
1 / 5 (7) Nov 27, 2013
Coming directly to Amazon.com soon! Author Vendicar(E)'s book on diatoms:

Fibonacci is (almost) everywhere, Nik. Nature's designs are the coolest.

You get a 5.

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