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Robots Imitate Honey Bees For Aircraft Aerobatics

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flying honey bee


University of Queensland scientists have developed an autopilot system that is able to guide planes through extreme maneuvers, such as loops and barrel rolls, by watching the horizon like a honey bee. "Our system, which takes thousands of a second to directly measure the position of the horizon, is much faster at calculating position, and more accurate," says Queensland's Saul Thurrowgood.

The researchers taught the system to distinguish the sky from the ground by loading hundreds of landscape images into a computer, and training the system to compare the sky's blue color with the ground's red and green shades. Low-resolution cameras, which are similar to the eyesight of a bee, are attached to the aircraft and the system takes its own pictures of the horizon. A major challenge was determining the best resolution of images that allowed the system to locate the horizon quickly and not compromise the accuracy of the information, Thurrowgood says. "The measurement process can certainly be quickened—we only have to adjust the cameras to take images with a smaller resolution," he says.

Thurrowgood says the system also could be programmed for military, sporting, and commercial planes.

From University of Queensland
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