Inspired by dandelion seeds, they can be dispersed by drones across a large area to monitor issues like climate change and forest fires.
As we face ever-increasing ecological challenges, gathering environmental data will be important in the development of technology that can help heal the natural world.
Researchers at the University of Washington have a new tool they hope can aid in this effort: tiny battery-free sensors that can be dispersed in the wind via drones and gather environmental data over large areas.
The inspiration for these sensors is the dandelion seed.
The electronics that gather the data and transmit it wirelessly sit on a plastic disc that's laser-cut into a shape designed to be carried by the wind and also land with the solar panels that power the device face up.
Vikram Iyer, an assistant professor at UW, said that the devices are small and light enough that a drone can carry 1,000 of them.
Researchers from UW said they are working to make these types of electronic devices more sustainable and are investigating ways to change the shape of the device as it falls to give greater control over where it lands.
To see these dandelion-inspired sensors up close and dropped from a drone, check out the video above of our trip to the lab.