As we continue to improve our Reality Index, we are always looking for better ways to visualize the world around us.
Researchers and engineers at Purdue University have taken inspiration from the humblest of animals, hummingbirds and insects, and developed a revolutionary new propulsion system, permitting working drones as small as a single gram. Their larger twelve-gram drone has a carrying capacity of twenty-seven grams, enough for a battery and a camera.
As impressive, or more, than the mechanics of the drones are the brains that work them. Machine learning algorithms let the drones be "taught" how to act like a hummingbird. And even without a camera, the drones proved able to map out areas by touching surfaces.
This allows drones to go in spaces previously unreachable. Drones have already been used in search and rescue capacities. These new drones would be able to navigate through collapsed structures, mapping the areas with high precision.
The team also stresses a sustainability and environmental message. These drones can help study hummingbirds and insects in wild, following along with them. With concerns about colony collapse on the rise, this level of scrutiny is vital.
These drones aren't quite ready for the production line, but they represent a crucial step in the development of several key technologies. They might be tiny, but their impact will be huge.