(Lucas : picture of a real raven in flight, no drone.)
The march toward developing drones that mimic nature continues unabated. Robobee has received a lot of attention lately for taking flight as a possible replacement pollinator for the declining natural bee population, while also offering the dual-use swarm surveillance and weapons’ capabilities sought after by the military.
The latest drone to come out of development utilizes 3D-printed components to produce a first of its kind: independently flapping wings. So effective is its mimicry, that product developers documented Robo Raven being attacked by a real hawk in the promo video below from Maryland Robotics Center:
Uploaded on 29 apr 2013 by UMDRobotics
It is the independently flapping wings enabled by 3D fabrication of its overall structure that offer this stunning level of drone evolution:
What enables Robo Raven’s impressive aerobatics? Independently flapping wings. It took the team eight years and a number of failed prototypes to arrive at this stage. Wing independence requires a heavier microcontroller and battery. To trim the robot’s total weight, the team turned to modern fabrication techniques to 3D print and laser cut light polymer parts. As for those tricky moves, with their independently flapping wings the team can now program and run any wing motion they like. (Source)
The market in miniturized drones is exhibiting the same parallel growth as the larger drone market which has seen countries and states within the U.S. rush to become drone testing sites. The mimicking of nature is the latest element that heralds a range of science fiction nightmare scenarios including increased miniturization that extends right down to the nano-scale. This will go beyond what we currently call drones — that which we can at least see — and creates a level of unseen and pervasive surveillance and detection.
Here are some surveillance and detection concepts already in operation or under development beyond the newly announced Robobee and the Robo Raven seen above.
- A group of smaller surveillance drones called NAV (nano air vehicles) or MAV (micro air vehicles) already have been commissioned: mapleseed drones; sparrow drones by 2015, dragonfly drones to fly in swarms by 2030, and eventually a housefly drone. And if the reconstruction of nature doesn’t pan out, nature itself can be hijacked using electrical impulses to create cyborg surveillance insects being studied at major universities.
- Nano sensors for use in agriculture that measure crops and environmental conditions.
- Bomb-sniffing plants using rewired DNA to detect explosives and biological agents.
- “Smart Dust” motes that wirelessly transmit data on temperature, light, and movement (this can also be used in currency to track cash).
- Nano-based RFID barcodes that can be embedded into any material for tracking of all products . . . and people.
- Devices to detect molecules, enzymes, proteins and genetic markers — opening up the door for race-specific bioweapons, as mentioned in the Project For a New American Century’s policy paper Rebuilding America’s Defenses.
As with all technology, there are two sides. 3D printing offers a range of potential benefits and open-source solutions to free humanity from centralized corporate and police state shackles. Naturally, the good elements are being fought tooth-and-nail, while the aberrant forms that mimic nature and offer little but an insult to the senses and a severe danger to core concepts of liberty and self-direction are being promoted as technological progress.
Info from the principal engineer of Robo Raven can be found here: http://unorthodoxideas.blogspot.com/2013/04/robo-raven-step-towards-bird-inspired.html