Photo credit: UNSW Canberra
Researchers from the University of New South Wales Canberra discovered the secret of bumblebees’ self-aware dexterous flight, and this knowledge could one day be used for the next generation of drones and autonomous vehicles. The study was led by Dr Sridhar Ravi and focused on how bumblebees navigated through a tunnel with a series of gates featuring different sized holes. The insects managed to successfully fly through the apertures, thanks to a remarkable sense of their own size and a detailed perception of the obstacles’ openings.
By simply scanning the aperture, bumblebees were capable of skillfully fitting through the gates by manipulating the speed of their approach and posture, even while flying sideways when the hole was smaller than their wingspan. This research also provides inspiration to apply the bumblebees’ attributes to robotics that deal with the challenges of flying in real-world scenarios.
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Previous research had indicated that complex processes, such as the perception of self-size, were cognitively driven and present only in animals with large brains. However, our research indicates that small insects, with an even smaller brain, can comprehend their body size and use that information while flying in a complex environment,” said research lead author, Dr Sridhar Ravi from UNSW Canberra.