The Fruit-Fly-Inspired Flying Robot can dodge incoming objects fast.
Rotting fruit inspired 14-year old Mihir Garimella of Pittsburgh to design a new navigation system for robots. “Last summer, my family went to India, and when we came back we realized there were these bananas on the counter that we forgot to throw out,” he says. “So our house was filled with fruit flies that I was trying to swat.” To his frustration, he realized how quickly the fruit fly’s visual system operates despite the tiny size of its brain (only 100,000 neurons versus a human’s 100 billion). Using infrared distance sensors, Arduino programming and a quadrotor – a flying robot with four propellers – Garimella designed a mini flying machine that can take off rapidly in response to objects approaching from different directions. The machines, he says, can be deployed to survey disaster zones and would be able to nimbly navigate around obstacles and evade falling debris.