Smart Drone News & Reviews

DelFly Exlorer Is A 20 Gram Drone Which Has A Pair Of Flapping Wings

Flying drones are becoming increasingly common. At the high-end of the scale you see them being used by the military, flying around for days while monitoring and even attacking targets. At the other end of the scale we have the consumer-level drones, which fly around for 20 minutes controlled by a smartphone before requiring a recharge.

Now we have the DelFly Explorer from the Delft University of Technology. It’s classed as a Micro Air Vehicle, and it has some rather unique qualities. For one, it’s a completely autonomous flying drone. It can take off and fly around an unknown area using its cameras and on-board computer to map its surroundings and not collide with obstacles. It also uses a flapping wing system to fly unlike the more common propeller solutions.

What most incredible about the DelFly, though, is the fact it only weighs 20 grams. That’s the same as four sheets of A4 paper. As you’d expect at that weight level, it’s also very small having a wingspan of just 28cm. As for battery life, you’ll get 9 minutes of flight time from the current model. That’s actually impressive if you consider the weight limitations such a design imposes on battery size.

The sensors and processing on board the DelFly add up to 5 grams of weight. 1 gram accounts for the autopilot system, which includes a processor, barometer, accelerometers, and gyros. The other 4 grams is for a stereo vision system consisting of two cameras and a processor.

The on-board hardware is combined with two sets of software algorithms. The first controls flight and allows the DelFly to constantly move (it can’t hover) without hitting any obstacles by monitoring a control area around the vehicle. The second is vision algorithms, which efficiently recognize obstacles, but also take into account and compensate for the distortions caused by the flapping wing motion.

As for uses, it is not a payload carrying vehicle beyond the equipment attached to allow it to fly autonomously. However, it can be used to monitor or explore an area unaided, providing monitoring data or even streaming live video. Of course, they really need to increase the battery life for such tasks to be done for a useful amount of time.

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