Innovation

Autonomous bee brain-inspired UAV could revolutionise drone tech

An ambitious plan to replicate the brain functions of honeybees and ants within drones is under development at the University of Sussex, University of Sheffield and Queen Mary University of London. Jim Drury has more.

FALMER, ENGLAND, UK (Reuters) – Bees and ants have long fascinated scientists – displaying complex group and individual behaviour despite having small brains.

British researchers want to understand how their brains work and use them as models for tiny drones.

They’ve launched the four-year Brains on Board project.

ALEX DEWAR, POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCHER, UNIVERSITY OF SUSSEX,

“The idea behind the project is can we learn something from honeybees in particular, insects more generally in terms of power-efficient strategies for carrying out autonomous behaviours.”

The team says creating computationally and energy-efficient autonomous robots would represent a step-change in biorobotics.

Most drone research in the field focuses on deep learning, which is energy intensive.

The Brains on Board drones would run with lightweight GPU hardware.

ANDY PHILIPPIDES, PROFESSOR OF BIOROBOTICS AT UNIVERSITY OF SUSSEX,

“What makes us unique is through this funding we’ve brought together experts both in machine learning in computational neuroscience with robotics and with the biologists. So we’re studying the bee at multiple scales. So we’ve got VR virtual reality arena where we can record what’s going on in the neurons of very low scale. We’ve also got the higher up scale the radar experiments we’ve got behaviour and neural recordings and then we’ve got the modelling expertise to be able to put that together.”

The team’s newly-developed algorithms will soon be tested in a drone like this.

They hope to have it flying autonomously within a year.


Associated Links

  • Uni Of Sheffield
  • Beekeeping
  • Insects in culture
  • Apis
  • Ant
  • Symbiosis
  • Honey bee
  • Local government in England
  • Drone
  • Sheffield
  • Culture
  • Anthropology