Drones are now a thing, but these small flying contraptions are still not at their best. Many crash into one another because no sensor has been strong enough to detect before collision. Dario Floreano, director of the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology has been studying how to build sensors that are like insect eyes to help smaller drones from colliding. See below the research from: TechnologyReview.com
A tiny artificial eye inspired by the vision systems of insects could help small flying drones navigate their surroundings well enough to avoid collisions while buzzing around in confined, cluttered spaces—a key step in making these small autonomous flying vehicles practical.
Some have attempted to address this problem by using digital cameras, but these are bulky, and the need for a small and very lightweight package has led researchers, including Floreano, to look to insect vision for insights. Flying bugs avoid collisions thanks to tiny eyes that have low spatial resolution but are highly sensitive to changes in the way light is reflected as the insect moves, or due to the movement of an object in its field of view. Thenew sensor his group recently unveiled weighs only two milligrams and takes up only two cubic millimeters, and can detect motion in conditions ranging from a poorly lit room to very bright sunlight outdoors—three times faster than fast flying insects, says Floreano.
The artificial eye is composed of a lens on top of three electronic photodetectors arranged in a triangular pattern. By combining measurements of the individual photodetectors, the device can sense the speed and direction of motion in it’s view.
The sensor could be useful for other things besides flying robots. For demonstration, the group created what Floreano calls “vision tape,” a flexible patch containing many artificial eyes. The tape can be attached to any curved surface, including other kinds of robots, vehicles, and even furniture and clothing, he says.