Skeeter, a new project from technology firm Animal Dynamics, aims to change the way people think about drones.
Gone are whirring rotors – this drone instead takes its inspiration from the natural design of a dragonfly.
Adrian Thomas, Professor of Biomechanics in the Zoology Department of Oxford University, has conducted extensive research into the flight of dragonflies – how they work, how they perform, which of their parts are absolutely necessary for how they operate.
The firm constructed an insect wind tunnel in which to gather data on dragonflies’ flight, and this data went into the construction of Skeeter, which has reached prototype stage.
Skeeter is currently a project funded by the UK’s Ministry of Defence, however if it proves successful then the future of consumer drones could change drastically.
— Animal Dynamics (@AnimalDynamic) September 16, 2016
Professor Thomas was recently interviewed on BBC Radio 4, where he described the design of Skeeter in more detail.
“Dragonflies have this fantastic performance – they glide a lot, but they can also out-accelerate a Formula 1 car forwards, backwards and sideways if they want to.”
According to Professor Thomas, dragonflies are able to change wing movements mid-wingbeat, changing the angle and shape of the wing for superior manoeuvrability. This means that Skeeter can perform several functions a quadcopter can’t.
“If [a quadcopter’s] motor fails it’s a brick – no redundancy at all,” says Professor Thomas. “They’re power-hungry, their endurance is short, they’re not particularly good at coping with turbulence. Our vehicles are more robust in that if the motor fails it glides, they’re very good at coping with turbulence, and we’re pushing for much higher endurance than you’d get with a quadcopter.”
“A quadcopter might do 20 minutes – we’re looking at something in excess of an hour.”
Skeeter: Key specifications
Weight: less than 50g
Noise: about the same as a dragonfly
Speed: 45 km/h
Materials: multiple composites
See more about Skeeter at the Animal Dynamics website.