Jellyfish inspire mini flying robot


Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No… it’s a flying jellyfish! In a bid to create a new kind of flying robot, scientists in the US have sought inspiration from an unlikely source. Their vehicle flaps its wings in a way that recalls the pulsating swimming motions of jellyfish – creatures that are more at home in the water than in the air.

Most previous aerial robots have been engineered to mirror the movements of creatures that can actually fly. However, it has proved difficult to mimic the complex engineering that nature has mastered through millions of years of evolution. For example, robots that are inspired by insects such as fruit flies have to continually adjust their flying motion to respond to changes in the wind. Recreating this complex control in such a small mechanism is tricky.

By turning logic on its head and basing their design on a sea creature, Leif Ristroph and colleagues at New York University have come up with a solution. Their design operates without the need for any control system.

Written By: Natalie Keir
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  1. That’s a neat solution. It would be fun to combine it somehow with a more traditional approach to add support for something like controlled dives i.e. to get from a – b you’d perform a series of climbs and guided free falls.

  2. In reply to #3 by Sean_W:

    Well it is tethered to a power source. 🙂

    Yup, it is a long way from even a to b let alone z (pronounced US style).

  3. In reply to #3 by Sean_W:

    Well it is tethered to a power source. 🙂

    Here’s an article that contains a little more detail about the project: Four-winged robot flies like a jellyfish


    It strikes me that a set of three held together (and apart!) with three strong enough but very light pendant co-axial conductive threads can support a graphene/ultracapacitor/battery and payload and confer steering ability through simple regulation of power to each jellyfish. Wouldn’t it be nice if the plastic film could be solar PV? Wouldn’t it be nice if the solar PV and graphene batteries could be on alternate sides of the filmy flappy bits?

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