Nav: Home

Teaching drones about the birds and the bees

July 04, 2016

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) of the future will be able to visually coordinate their flight and navigation just like birds and flying insects do, without needing human input, radar or even GPS satellite navigation.

A research group at the University of Queensland, Australia is trying to make this future a reality by uncovering flying techniques that budgerigars and bees share, and applying their findings to UAV control programmes. Prof Mandyam Srinivasan, leading the research, explains: "We study how small airborne creatures such as bees and birds use their vision to avoid collisions with obstacles, fly safely through narrow passages, control their height above the ground and more. We then use biologically-inspired principles to design novel vision systems and algorithms for the guidance of UAVs."

At first glance, insects and birds have very different brains in terms of size and architecture, yet the visual processing in both animals is very effective at guiding their flight. "Bees' brains weigh a tenth of a milligram and carry far fewer neurones than our own brains; yet the insects are capable of navigating accurately to food sources over 10 km away from their hive," remarks Prof Srinivasan. "Birds too can perform incredible aerobatics and navigational feats. These animals are clearly using simple and elegant strategies, honed by thousands of years of evolution."

The team compares the flight of bees and budgies in particular because they are easy animals to study, as Prof Srinivasan explains: "These animals are clever, can be easily trained, and possess sophisticated visual systems that are not unlike those of our own." Regarding other benefits of the research, he says: "The study of their behaviour could also reveal some of the basic principles of visual guidance in a number of organisms including humans."

Comparing the flight behaviours of these animals using high-speed cameras will lead to drastically improved UAV guidance systems. Prof Srinivasan explains: "The biologically-inspired principles we uncover will foster a new generation of fully autonomous UAVs that do not rely on external help such as GPS or radar. These UAVs could be incredibly useful for applications like surveillance, rescue operations, defence, and planetary exploration."
-end-


Society for Experimental Biology

Related Bees Articles:

To buzz or to scrabble? To foraging bees, that's the question
A team of UA biologists has discovered that for a hard-working bumblebee, foraging for pollen versus nectar is very different -- and tougher than you might think.
Nicotine enhances bees' activity
Nicotine-laced nectar can speed up a bumblebee's ability to learn flower colors, according to scientists at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).
Scientists say agriculture is good for honey bees
Scientists with the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture evaluated the impacts of row-crop agriculture, including the traditional use of pesticides, on honey bee health.
Honey bees have sharper eyesight than we thought
Research conducted at the University of Adelaide has discovered that bees have much better vision than was previously known, offering new insights into the lives of honey bees, and new opportunities for translating this knowledge into fields such as robot vision.
Overuse of antibiotics brings risks for bees -- and for us
Researchers from The University of Texas at Austin have found that honeybees treated with a common antibiotic were half as likely to survive the week after treatment compared with a group of untreated bees, a finding that may have health implications for bees and people alike.
Flies and bees act like plant cultivators
Pollinator insects accelerate plant evolution, but a plant changes in different ways depending on the pollinator.
Bees can learn to use a tool by observing others
Simply by watching other bees, bumblebees can learn to use a novel tool to obtain a reward, a new study reveals.
Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers
Attacks by robber bees result in the evolution of larger guard bees and thus promote the division of labor in the hive.
Save the bees? There's an app for that
A new mobile app can calculate the crop productivity and pollination benefits of supporting endangered bees.
Sweat bees on hot chillies: Native bees thrive in traditional farming, securing good yield
Farming doesn't always have to be harmful to bees: Even though farmers on the Mexican peninsula of Yucatan traditionally slash-and-burn forest to create small fields, this practice can be beneficial to sweat bees by creating attractive habitats.

Related Bees Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Digital Manipulation
Technology has reshaped our lives in amazing ways. But at what cost? This hour, TED speakers reveal how what we see, read, believe — even how we vote — can be manipulated by the technology we use. Guests include journalist Carole Cadwalladr, consumer advocate Finn Myrstad, writer and marketing professor Scott Galloway, behavioral designer Nir Eyal, and computer graphics researcher Doug Roble.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#530 Why Aren't We Dead Yet?
We only notice our immune systems when they aren't working properly, or when they're under attack. How does our immune system understand what bits of us are us, and what bits are invading germs and viruses? How different are human immune systems from the immune systems of other creatures? And is the immune system so often the target of sketchy medical advice? Those questions and more, this week in our conversation with author Idan Ben-Barak about his book "Why Aren't We Dead Yet?: The Survivor’s Guide to the Immune System".