The smaller the drone, the shorter the flight time — unless your drone is a real live bumblebee.
Average hobby drones typically have a flight time of around 20 minutes because rotary aircraft require a great deal of energy to stay airborne — more energy means heavier batteries. So what do you do if your drone is the size of an insect?
On Tuesday, engineers at the University of Washington announced they have come up with a power source both strong and light enough to keep their "drone" in flight for a continuous stretch of about seven hours.
Their solution? Leveraging nature's flying machines.
Vikram Iyer, Rajalakshmi Nandakumar, Anran Wang, Sawyer B. Fuller and Shyamnath Gollakota refer to it as Living IoT — a flying wireless platform, which includes sensors, wireless communication and location trackers, that ride aboard live insects. In this case, a bumblebee that will soar over huge fields and monitor temperature, humidity or crop health.
Because insects can fly on their own, the package requires only a tiny rechargeable battery that can last for seven hours of flight. The whole sensor package costs just a few dollars and weighs only 102 mg, or about the weight of seven grains of uncooked rice. (Bumblebees can carry payloads close to their body weight. A single bee weighs .00025 lbs, or 113 mg.)