By Isha Lodhi
The most recent DelFly model, the DelFly Explorer, made in 2013, is an autonomous flying robot that can fly on a chosen height for up to 9 minutes without any external control. The DelFly Explorer is the only Micro Aerial Vehicle that flies by flapping its “wings” like a dragonfly would do. The reason this robotic dragonfly is so awesome is its incredibly light weight; only 20 grams.
The DelFly has “stereotypic” vision, i.e. it can extract 3D information from its surroundings using computer stereo vision (similar to the “stereotypic vision of animals”), which it uses to sense and avoid obstacles. Its intelligent design equips it to avoid these obstacles, fly at both fast and slow speeds, and take-off on its own. It is also fed with a short term, path-finding algorithm.
The DelFly Explorer has a mass of 20 grams, which is greater than the mass of its predecessors. This is the price paid for the Explorer’s higher intelligence. The addition of a stereo vision system (4 g) and other sensors, to the model equipped it with the ability of autonomous flight and made the model “independent” and capable of free flight.
The previous model of DelFly, the DelFly Micro, is only 3.07 grams in mass, and has a wingspan of 10 cm, which has made it the smallest camera equipped aircraft in the world, as acknowledged by the Guinness Book of Records 2009. The DelFly Micro is fully steerable with a flight time of around 2 to 3 minutes due to limited power onboard.
The DelFly Explorer uses a barometer to keep track of its altitude, gyrometers for pitch stabilization and head control, a motor controller, and an RC link. At present, a DelFly Explorer can fly around a room without any collisions. Further research is being made on the DelFly’s autonomous navigation, which would enable future models of DelFly to fly from room to room as well. The DelFly’s power system has potential to be improved too. At present, a single voyage of the DelFly Explorer lasts for 9 minutes because of its limited battery life. If made more efficient, the DelFly flying life can be prolonged.