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

Related Stories

Micro flying robots can fly more effectively than flies

August 1, 2009

There is a long held belief among engineers and biologists that micro flying robots that fly like airplanes and helicopters consume much more energy than micro robots that fly like flies. A new study now shows that a fly ...

Recommended for you

Researchers build bacteria's photosynthetic engine

July 29, 2015

Nearly all life on Earth depends on photosynthesis, the conversion of light energy into chemical energy. Oxygen-producing plants and cyanobacteria perfected this process 2.7 billion years ago. But the first photosynthetic ...

Scientists unlock secrets of stars through aluminium

July 29, 2015

Physicists at the University of York have revealed a new understanding of nucleosynthesis in stars, providing insight into the role massive stars play in the evolution of the Milky Way and the origins of the Solar System.

Rogue wave theory to save ships

July 29, 2015

Physicists have found an explanation for rogue waves in the ocean and hope their theory will lead to devices to warn ships and save lives.

New blow for 'supersymmetry' physics theory

July 27, 2015

In a new blow for the futuristic "supersymmetry" theory of the universe's basic anatomy, experts reported fresh evidence Monday of subatomic activity consistent with the mainstream Standard Model of particle physics.

7 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

VendicarE
5 / 5 (1) Nov 24, 2013
Lampshade
goracle
2.1 / 5 (7) Nov 24, 2013
Lampshade

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

Mine is cooler, no lampshade needed:
http://s6.postimg...rper.jpg

This one even "flies":
http://s6.postimg...Star.jpg

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!

VendicarE
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...

http://housetohom...l-60.jpg

And another.

http://housetohom...oc-1.jpg

Here is an excellent idea.

http://www.amazon...04IDG6XK

NikFromNYC
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:
http://inhabitat....-lights/

Have you ever designed anything, V? Ever worked in a science lab either? You will likely enjoy this utopian statist take on Obama:
http://s6.postimg...mage.jpg

Brave New World on the brain, V(E)?
NikFromNYC
1.5 / 5 (8) Nov 24, 2013
Coming directly to Amazon.com soon! Author Vendicar(E)'s book on diatoms:
http://s16.postim...toms.jpg
obama_socks
1 / 5 (7) Nov 27, 2013
Coming directly to Amazon.com soon! Author Vendicar(E)'s book on diatoms:
http://s16.postim...toms.jpg
-NikNik

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

You get a 5.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.