The University of Washington (UW) developed a tiny drone through the use of a moth's biology inventing a new technology called the "Smellicopter".  Instead of trying to amplify what human beings' capacities are, the approach was to take the capacity of a moth and use a live moth antenna and incorporate it into the tiny drone to function as a smell sensor.

Tiny drone smellicopter

According to an article by TechCrunch, Mounted on a particularly tiny drone platform along with collision avoidance as well as other logical built in features, the device is said to be a new prototype of a potentially promising fusion of both artificial and natural ingenuity. According to an UW grad student known as Melanie Anderson, Nature is really able to blow the human-made odor sensors straight out of the water.

Melanie Anderson is said to be the lead author of this particular paper in which she described the Smellicopter in the official university news release. In a lot of different industrial applications, sensitivity is of utmost importance.

Human vs moth smelling

If, for example, a person had a sensor that could potentially detect toxic particles at only a fraction of the concentration of that being detectable by another, it would then be an easy choice as to use the sensor that is more sensitive. On the other hand, it is reportedly not easy to train moths to be able to fly towards toxic plumes of gas and return in order to report their findings.

Due to this dilemma, the team has decided to carefully remove the given common hawk moth's antenna and simply mount it on a particular board. The use of a light current passing through the platform, users will be able to monitor the antenna's own general status. This changes when it is said to be exposed to particular chemicals in which a moth might choose to follow.

During the tests, the given cybernetic moth-machine was able to perform better compared to the traditional sensor of both comparable power and size. The cells of the working antenna were reportedly excited by the given particles all wafting over them. This created a fast, accurate, and reliable signal for those chemicals that they are built to detect. 

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Smelling antennas

It was stated that "reprogramming" the given sensitivities would actually be quite non-trivial but still away from impossible. The drone itself is said to be quite a clever bit of engineering in order to keep the antenna pointed directly upwind. While the given pressure sensors and gyros might actually have worked in order to keep the craft pointed towards the right direction. 

The team reportedly used the simple approach of using a pair of light, large fins mounted directly on the back of the drone in order to have the given effect of being able to automatically turn the drone upwind. The full report can be read by the IOP Bioinspiration & Biometrics journal. It is still unknown as to when this type of technology can be utilized for a much wider use.

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This article is onwed by Tech Times

Written by Urian Buenconsejo

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