Not only do most drones get a bad rap for being buzzing contraptions of death that can easily invade our privacy, they are also not the most attractive by design. While our perception of drone technology remains suspicious, explorers, artists and researchers are beginning to use them for more creative and educational purposes. From capturing sweeping panoramic views of exotic locales around the world to uses in space exploration, drones are finally getting the acceptance (provided they are used for good) they deserve. And now, thanks to a German engineering firm called Festo, drones are also beginning to mimic nature in a variety of surprising and even beautiful ways.
Festo, the same company that recently made a big media splash with their bionic ants, is also responsible for constructing these nature-inspired butterfly drones that share many of the same characteristics as their real-life counterparts.
How these butterfly drones are made
The wings of these eMotionButterflies are made out of elastic capacitor films and are held together by thin carbon rods. Each butterfly drone weighs 32 grams, has a wingspan of 50 centimeters and can fly for up to 4 minutes at a time.
These winged beauties also incorporate the latest swarming robotic programming and technology. Together, these butterfly drones are able to move around a room without bumping into walls, objects or each other.
To pull off this feat of coordinated swarming, Festo employs an intelligent networking system that includes ten high-speed infrared cameras positioned around a room that track infrared markers on each butterfly drone. Information is relayed in real-time to a central computer that helps these butterfly drones coordinate their movements and flight path.
According to Festo’s website, “The eMotionButterflies impress with an intelligently employed mechanical system and the smallest possible power units in the tightest space. The reduced use of materials enables the true-to-nature flying behavior.”