Ultra-light micro air vehicles

Dutch engineers have built the third generation of the DelFly autonomous air vehicle. The DelFly Micro made its first public flight earlier today in Delft. This micro air vehicle weighs only 3 grams and has a wingspan of 10 centimeters. This very small remote-controlled aircraft carries a 0.4 gram camera. The DelFly Micro, which looks like a dragonfly, can fly for 3 minutes at a maximum speed of 5 meters/second. It could be used for observation flights in difficult-to-reach or dangerous areas. But read more...

Dutch engineers have built the third generation of the DelFly autonomous air vehicle. The DelFly Micro made its first public flight earlier today in Delft. This micro air vehicle weighs only 3 grams and has a wingspan of 10 centimeters. This very small remote-controlled aircraft carries a 0.4 gram camera. The DelFly Micro, which looks like a dragonfly, can fly for 3 minutes at a maximum speed of 5 meters/second. It could be used for observation flights in difficult-to-reach or dangerous areas. But read more...

The DelFly Micro autonomous air vehicle

The above photo will give you an idea of the size of the DelFly Micro autonomous air vehicle as it is sitting between a 1 euro coin. (Credit: TU Delft) Here is a link to a larger version of this photo.

The DelFly family of autonomous air vehicles

The above photo shows the three generations of the air vehicles built for the DelFly project. The DelFly I (2005) had a size of 50 cm, DelFly II (2006) a size of 28 cm, and now DelFly Micro a size of 10 cm. (Credit: TU Delft) Here is a link to a larger version of this photo.

The DelFly project has been in operation for several years now at the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft). Here is a link to the team which developed the DelFly Micro. You'll find additional photos and a short video of a flight of the DelFly Micro on their site.

Before going further, let's look at the weights of the different components of the DelFly Micro, which has a total weight of 3.07 grams. Here is a link to the full characteristics of this air vehicle.

  • Battery: 1 gram
  • Camera and transmitter: 0.4 gram
  • Engine: 0.45 gram
  • Receiver: 0.2 gram
  • Actuators: 0.5 gram
  • Rest: about 0.52 gram

Now, where these engineers found their inspiration? "The basic principle of the DelFly is derived from nature. The 'dragonfly' has a tiny camera (about 0.5 grams) on board that transmits its signals to a ground station. With software developed by TU Delft itself, objects can then be recognised independently. The camera transmits TV quality images, and therefore allows the DelFly II to be operated from the computer. It can be manoeuvred using a joystick as if the operator was actually in the cockpit of the aircraft. The aim is to be able to do this with the DelFly Micro too."

And what's next? "In a few years time, the new objective of the project, the DelFly NaNo (5 cm, 1 gram) will have been developed. The Micro is an important intermediate step in this development process. A second objective for the future is for the DelFly to be able to fly entirely independently thanks to image recognition software."

Sources: Delft University of Technology news release, via AlphaGalileo, July 21, 2008; and various websites

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