In January, the first DragonflEye concept was demoed by Draper Labs, an independent biomedical solutions laboratory, to help control a real life dragonfly, which could help injured insects navigate around the local area, or help scientists learn more about the behaviour of the insects.
The developers behind the tiny drone did a lot more than simply being inspired by nature and animals – they actually created a robotic dragonfly using drone tech. It integrates a next-gen navigation suite, synthetic biology and a neurotechnology system mounted on the dragonfly’s back, like a tiny backpack. It also features a solar cell to keep it charged while in the skies, ensuring the dragonfly doesn’t come crashing back down to earth.
The backpack uses optrodes to connect to neurons inside a dragonfly’s nerve cord. Although it won’t harm the insect, it can take over from its wings to make it fly on a particular course, for example.
No real images of the drone were available when the project was first announced earlier this year, but the company has now released footage of the miniature drone, showing how it’s able to fly through the skies, controlling the dragonfly’s flight.
The short video shows Drapers’ engineers caringly placing the tech on the dragonfly’s back and at the end of the footage, the robotic dragonfly takes flight in a test environment.
“Last year we focused on developing core enabling technologies like the backpack, optrode, and synthetic biology toolkit for the dragonfly,” the project’s senior researcher, Joe Register told TechCrunch.
“Now that we are in our second year, we have equipped dragonflies with our first-generation backpacks in a motion capture room that can monitor their precise flight movements as data is captured from navigation system. This has allowed us to develop precise onboard tracking algorithms for autonomous navigation.”