Aerial Navigation and Optic Flow SensingA Biorobotic Approach

Nicolas Franceschini, Franck Ruffier and Julien Serres

in Motor Control

Published in print December 2010 | ISBN: 9780195395273
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199863518 | DOI:
Aerial Navigation and Optic Flow SensingA Biorobotic Approach

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This chapter addresses some of the control problems involved in an animal's visually guided three-dimensional piloting. It formulates explicit control schemes that explain how insects may navigate without requiring any distance or speed measurements. The concept of the optic flow (OF) regulator, a feedback control system based on optic flow sensors, is presented. Based on a number of behavioral experiments conducted in the laboratory and elsewhere, the chapter explains how OF regulators suffice to account for various insect flight patterns observed over the ground and over still water, under calm and windy conditions, and in straight or tapered corridors. These control schemes were tested in simulation and implemented onboard two types of insect-like robots, a micro-helicopter and a micro-hovercraft, which behaved very much like insects when placed in similar environments. These robots were all equipped with electro-optic OF sensors inspired by the results of our previous microelectrode studies on the motion-sensitive neurons present in the fly eye. The simple and parsimonious control schemes described here do without any conventional avionic devices such as radio-altimeters, laser range-finders, variometers, radars, sonars, or GPS receivers. While these control schemes demand little in terms of neural resources—consistent with their integration in the less-than-one-milligram insect brain—they show great potential for simplifying the design of aerial and space vehicles, with interesting prospects in weight-reduction and low consumption.

Keywords: insects; speed measurements; optic flow sensors; flight patterns; OF sensors; aerial vehicles; space vehicles

Chapter.  10386 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Neuroscience

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