Hummingbird Robots Use AI to Go Where Drones Can't

Trained on machine learning algorithms to behave like the delicate birds they’re modelled after, the devices “know” how to move on their own, and can teach themselves new tricks.

“The robot can essentially create a map without seeing its surroundings,” Xinyan Deng, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue, said in a statement.

Hummingbirds have long been the subject of robotics research: In 2011, AeroVironment (commissioned by DARPA), built a cyborg that was heavier and slower than the real thing, with helicopter-like flight control and limited maneuverability.

The team documented key maneuvers (like a rapid 180-degree turn), then translated them to computer algorithms for the robots to learn.

Like their IRL inspirations, Purdue’s hummingbots can fly silently and stay steady through turbulence, making them ideal for covert operations.

Moving forward, researchers hope to add a battery and sensing technology (like a camera or GPS).

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