Robots inspired by nature: the "DelFly" bionic robot (photo)


Engineering school students look at the DelFly bionic robot during a demonstration at the International Workshop on Bio-Inspired Robots in Nantes April 7, 2011. Some 200 bio-robot technicians from 17 countries participate in the three-day event to show the latest developments in robots inspired from the animal world. (REUTERS/Stephane Mahe)

The DelFly micro is only 10 centimeters from wing to wing, and weighs just a little over 3 grams. Its developers call it "the smallest flying ornithopter carrying a camera in the world." Below, more photos of the little guy in action, including the 0.4 gram camera it carries.









  1. Is there a cockroach glued in there or something? Does it count as bionic if it doesn’t have any living bits?

    1. Apparently not. At least according to wikipedia, bionics is “is the application of biological methods and systems found in nature to the study and design of engineering systems and modern technology” . Also known as anything we’ve ever created ever. Good stuff.

    1. Yeah I came here to comment on Cornwell’s novel as well. It’s particularly neat seeing these photos after having read that book.

      She did say in the forward all the technology she talked about was real.

  2. If it follows the trend of everything else electromechanical these days, it can be made 20% smaller every year, so it will eventually be the size of a mosquito.

    1. Yes 20% smaller, and just as easily damaged/defeated.

      I’ll be more impressed when they show me a robotic carpenter bee that can move and accelerate/hover like they can.

      (They can build a hummingbird first if they’d like.)

      Then I’d think this is impressive. Here they have just taken the ultralight weight free flight crowds methodology and put tiny motors on it.

      -oh and a camera.

  3. Demonstrating profound crudeness, my first thought was “who’s the girl? she’s hot”.

    Won’t be long before these things are self-piloting, carry a long lens, and can follow people around outdoors.

  4. Biomimetic rather than bionic.

    As for the lovely picture, yes, but I can’t help thinking that they don’t realise they are watching one of the first steps in a new generation of technologies of control.

  5. Incredibly useful development step for the kind of creatures President-for-Eternity Bionic Dick Cheney will hunt on the scorched, lifeless, post-apocalyptic landscape.

  6. I for one welcome our new robotic insectoid avatars.

    Question though… if I get swatted while linked to my insect – would I die in real life?

  7. Why is it called bionic? It is wholly constructed of manufactured parts, which precludes its qualification as bionic.

  8. Maybe it’s the times, but when I see that I think “won’t be long until some asshole gives these things a way to charge-up on sunlight and reproduce in the wild.” Talk about surveillance.

  9. I can hear the very thoughts within the head of the bespectacled student: a decidedly Nimoyesque “Fascinating.”

  10. This thing is awesome and I’m actually kind of surprised at the Orwellian fears in the comments.

    1. You are right, it’s ridiculous. Everybody knows that Orwellian dystopia is already here. The transition away from personal privacy and anything resembling democracy happened some time ago.

    2. So you think a response that this is ‘awesome’ is a better demonstration of critical thought than understanding the purprose of biomimetic MAVs?

  11. I thought this sounded familiar, then I remembered Danny Dunn, Invisible Boy. Virtual-reality enabled telepresence via micro-UAV, in a 1974 young-adult sf novel!

    (And I see from that Wiki page that a lot of other people have made the connection.)

  12. YES!! I signed in to submit just such an association with the amazing Danny Dunn series. It’s hard to believe books that were so important to me as a youth are finally coming to life. What an amazing world we live in.

    bcsizemo, I suspect when they do finally make a robotic carpenter bee, you’ll have the same statement.. “Hey, they were bound to get here eventually. Call me when it’s a small as a gnat!”

    Most strides in science and industry are incremental… Only once an area hits a milestone that can be easily comprehended by the public does it tend to get the limelight. I think this tends to give the public the false impression that science is all about the big breakthroughs.

  13. Thank you, folks for reminding me of the Danny Dunn books. I loved them as a kid. Oddly enough I remembered ISIT and the HIG (mentioned in passing in one of the early books) but had forgotten all about Danny, Irene, Joe and Prof. Bullfinch.

  14. Fantastic, insectivore based robots! I’d love to see one of these as a kit at Maker Shed. Although I am sure it wasn’t easy to build, it certainly appears that the materials should all be readily available.

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