Engineers realized a drone capable of landing like a bird, thanks to flexible wings and a high-performance artificial intelligence.
Technology has always relied on nature for its advances, like the jumping robot inspired by a mixture of lizards and monkeys. Recently, a team of engineers from BMT Defense Services (BMT) and Bristol University designed a drone capable of flying and landing like a bird.
Thanks to its flexible wings, the machine can beat the wings like birds and fly more efficiently. According to the researchers, the drone will be able to move in urban environments, avoiding lanterns and power lines. Anthony Waldock, the company’s chief analyst, explains: “The flexible wing allows great maneuverability and efficient performance. This could make it possible to fly drones in congested environments. ”
To do so, the scientists observed a landing technique called “deep parachuting”, where the birds descend to a low altitude and orient their wings in height to position well.
The Accuracy of Calculations Are the Key of a Good Landing
However, it is thanks to an artificial intelligence integrating a learning process called Q-Learning (used by an AI to control wings independently) that the drone was able to learn to land properly. The system of Q-Learning is based on the constant increase of a “level of satisfaction” or level “Q” which consists of constantly beating its own “wings record”.
The drone had to make about 5,000 landings before performing in a satisfactory way. Indeed, the technique requires very precise calculations for a good landing: a small inaccuracy in speed, positioning and orientation and failure is ensured. This is why the drone trained in a virtual environment established at a fixed height before making landings on the ground.
Indeed, the main objective of the research was to land a drone properly on military ships. Indeed, this type of drone, part of the military research program Autonomous Systems Underpinning Research, will be used in the future by the Army of the United Kingdom. For its part, the US military has already developed a troubling swarm of about a hundred mini-drones ready for combat.