German robotics company Festo has created a robot dragonfly that can fly forwards, backwards and sideways, and can even hover in the air.
Everyone loves those little remote-control quadcopters, but Festo's BionicOpter is possibly, on a metric scale, at least 10 times cooler.
The robot is modelled off the dragonfly -- an insect capable of some very complex stunt flying. Using two sets of wings that move independently, it can move in any direction, including vertically and backwards -- and even hover on the spot. The BionicOpter isn't quite as nimble; it's a lot bigger than a dragonfly, and lacks dragonfly reflexes thanks to a human at the helm, but it can move around pretty impressively for all that.
At 44-centimetres long and with a wingspan of 63 centimetres, the robot is extraordinarily lightweight, clocking in at just 175 grams. Using eight servo motors, it has 13 degrees of freedom -- nine in the wings, and four in the head and tail -- and a wing-beat frequency of 15 to 20 hertz. This allows it the same manoeuvrability as an actual dragonfly, able to move in all directions and hover just like the insect.
It's controlled by a smartphone app, with an AMR microcontroller sending back constant data on the position and movement of the wings in order to stabilise the BionicOpter. Inertia sensors measure the acceleration and tilt of the robot, while position and acceleration sensors measure the speed and direction of flight.
Although the BionicOpter would make a pretty incredible toy, the ability to tap into a dragonfly's flight abilities could do wonders for aeronautical engineering. At this point, though, Festo has announced no further plans for the robot.
Check out what it can do in the video below.