May 23, 2014

Bioinspired flight control

The invention and deployment of small flying robots (drones) is beginning to influence our everyday lives. Their applications are frightening to some and exciting to others. From military surveillance, to city courier services, to near-future flying camera phones, this technology is bound to end up on everyone's doorstep. Setting privacy issues aside, the biggest challenge in successfully integrating the versatile use of drones in our society is to make them safe and reliable. Whereas we have succeeded in doing so with large passenger aircraft, it has proven remarkably difficult to adapt this technology on a smaller scale to flight in urban environments. From windy street canyons to highly cluttered alleys and parks, keeping drones in the air is actually a more difficult task than first imagined, as any hobby drone pilot can confirm. Making these flights more useful and versatile is yet another challenge. How can we adapt and innovate our technology to succeed?