The World’s First Autonomous Flapping MAV

Screen Shot 2013-12-22 at 7.57.23 PM

[Ferdinand] sent in a tip about the very cool DelFly Explorer, built by researchers at Netherlands’ Delft University of Technology, which is claimed to be the world’s first autonomous, flapping micro air vehicle. While it doesn’t fly like a typical ornithopter, the specs will convince you not to care. It has an 28 cm wingspan and weighs 20 grams, which includes motors, a battery, two cameras, and an autopilot. The autopilot uses accelerometers and a gyroscope, plus a barometer for altitude measurement. You can see the on-board video at the 35-second mark on the video (after the break). They are incredibly noisy images, but apparently the researchers have come up with some algorithms that can make sense of it.

Put it all together, and you have a machine that can take off, maintain altitude, avoid obstacles, and fly for nine minutes. We’ve seen a cool ornithopter design before, and even a thrust vectoring plane, but this surpasses both projects. It’s pretty incredible what they have been able to fit into such a small design.


  1. Ok, I confess. I first read that title with a missing lowercase “L”.

    Admit it. You did, too.

  2. medix says:

    Fantastic! So glad I moved here!

  3. zigzagjoe says:

    HAD reading/watching comprehension FTW: The images aren’t noisy; the right camera view is a depth map.

  4. sounds like its not intended for wiping people off the earth…

  5. Adrian says:

    Link to the original source, includes a (tiny) image of the vision system PCB

  6. cplamb says:

    Why are those purple dots on the walls in the background? Are they needed for navigation?

  7. Vonskippy says:

    It’s painful to watch that thing hanging off it’s motor in flight.

    Even a brick shithouse will fly with enough power.

  8. supershwa says:

    I saw this a few days ago in a news article on a different site. They talk about using these outside: I’d like to know how they expect it to react to a light 5mph breeze…

  9. Tom the Brat says:

    That’s cute!

  10. omar says:

    wow thats a huge leap for robotic flight!

    and now make them look like dragonflies with 3d cameras looking like dragonfly eyes.

  11. omar says:

    oops it already hase stereo vision cameras.

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