A drone has been equipped with feathers to increase its precision during flight. The bio-inspired device can spread or close its wings while flying, making it easier to manoeuvre and more resistant to high winds.
When they need to change direction, increase their speed or counter headwinds, birds alter the configuration of their wings. To steer, for example, they spread one wing and slightly retract the other. By adjusting their wingspan in this way, they create a calculated imbalance that causes them to turn. Up to now, only birds could do this so effectively.
After observing birds in flight, researchers from the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems had the idea of building an energy-efficient winged drone capable of changing its wingspan, flying at high speed and moving through tight spaces. Their research has just been published in the Royal Society journal Interface Focus.
Dario Floreano and his team wanted to develop a bio-inspired drone that could meet various aerodynamic requirements. It had to be capable of flying between obstacles, making sharp turns and coping with strong winds. By changing its geometry mid-flight, the drone can meet all these criteria. The moving part is located on the outer wings. It works like a bird’s quill feathers, which are the large feathers at the edge of the wing.