Technology

This drone can smell obstacles using live moth antenna


Researchers compared the moth antenna to an artificial sensor. They found that the moth antenna is more sensitive and reacted more quickly while flying through patchy odour plumes.

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Researchers at the University of Washington and the University of Maryland have developed an autonomous drone that uses live antennae from a moth to smell and avoid obstacles as it travels in the air.

The “smellicopter” was developed in association with the Air Force Center of Excellence on Nature-Inspired Flight Technologies and Ideas (NIFTI), and uses antennae from the Manduca sexta hawkmoth.

Moths can use their antennae to sense chemicals in the environment.

Incorporating a live antenna from moth as a sensor makes this drone tune and search in rescue operations. It also helps navigate an area with unexploded devices.

“By using an actual moth antenna with Smellicopter, we’re able to get the best of both worlds: the sensitivity of a biological organism on a robotic platform where we can control its motion,” said Melanie Anderson, lead author of the paper titled ‘A bio-hybrid odor-guided autonomous palm-sized air vehicle’.

Researchers compared the moth antenna to an artificial sensor. They found that the moth antenna is more sensitive and reacted more quickly while flying through patchy odour plumes.

Once separated from the live moth, the antenna stays active for up to four hours, which can be extended by storing the antennae in a fridge.

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