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A View from Kristina Grifantini

Micro-vehicle Imitates the Winged Maple Seed

The new “robo-seed” flies using just a single propeller.

  • October 26, 2009

Growing up, I used to toss up Maple seeds and watch as these “helicopters” slowly spiraled to the ground.

The monocopter developed at the University of Maryland.

Now a team at the University of Maryland’s Clark School of Engineering has created a small, one-winged, remote-controlled device that mimics the maple seed’s graceful flight mechanics

Researchers have aimed to make micro air vehicles for some time, often taking inspiration from nature, such as dragonflies or houseflies, to design small, efficient devices. Such low-powered micro vehicles could be used in surveillance, search-and-rescue, and communications applications.

The new “robo-seed” can fly and hover stably using just its single twisting propeller. The researchers accomplished this by separating the carefully-shaped wing and body components of the device, allowing them to control the wing’s tilt (and the size of the helix-shaped descent) without throwing off the flyer’s balance.

According to the university’s press release, the robo-seed can not only take off from the ground and hover in air, but it can also perform controlled flight and hover when tossed from an aircraft or by hand.

Watch a video charting the robo-seed’s development below.

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