Benedict receives NSF grant to research hummingbird inspired aerial robots

Moble BenedictA three-year, $242,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) will allow Dr. Moble Benedict, assistant professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University, to investigate the flight dynamics and control of hover-capable small-scale flapping wing robots.

Stability and agility are opposing goals. Therefore, the ability of insects and hummingbirds to perform a stable hover while rejecting external disturbances and retaining agility has baffled scientists and engineers. Even after decades of research in this area, the dynamics of flapping flight is only beginning to be understood.

The goal of the proposed research titled “Dynamics and Control of Hummingbird Inspired Aerial Robots,” is to improve understanding of flight dynamics, maneuverability (or controllability) and disturbance rejection capabilities of realistic hummingbird-like flapping-wing robots through a well-balanced modeling and experimental approach. The proposed research will take advantage of fully nonlinear simulations and flight experiments using a robotic hummingbird successfully designed, built and flight-tested at Benedict’s Advanced Vertical Flight Lab (AVFL). This is only the second vehicle of this type ever created, along with the DARPA-funded Nano Hummingbird by Aerovironment.

Understanding the dynamics and control of bio-inspired flight will enable the development of the next generation of miniature flying robots with robustness and agility comparable to natural flyers. Such systems would play pivotal roles in both national defense and domestic safety. An agile, robust, stealthy autonomous flying robot with the ability to carry miniature sensors could guide soldiers and marines out of harm’s way. Potential civilian applications include biochemical sensing, traffic monitoring, surveillance, fire and rescue operations, wildlife surveys, power-line inspection and aerial photography, to name a few.

More information on Benedict’s research can be found at Advanced Vertical Flight Lab website.