Nature has long inspired drone design in terms of agility and maneuverability of the craft. A recent addition in this segment generating quite a buzz is an insect-inspired winged drone called MetaFly.
Much like the bees it’s modelled after MetaFly flaps its wings vigorously creating a differential between draft and lift — an efficient flight mechanic used by flying animals making more lightweight and maneuverable than traditional commercial drones, which use propellers to generate lift.
A French inventor took to Kickstarter last week to raise funds for MetaFly that resulted in approximately 2,350 people pledging more than $237,000 to bring the drone to market.
MetaFly is controlled using a two-channel remote control, which allows it to perform “fantastic trajectories and manoeuvres in the air,” Van Ruymbeke the creator of MetaFly said. The Metafly is technically an ornithon that is biomimetic that is it mimics birds in Flight. A skilled controller can navigate MetaFly both outdoors as well as indoors, but must be careful not to crash into walls, colleagues, or computers. MetaFly can fly up to 8 minutes on a 12-minute charge, and reach speeds up to 11 mph. The remote has a wireless range of 320 feet.
MetaFly only relies on its wings to fly so it doesn’t require motors or a bulky battery, meaning it’s lighter in weight than traditional drones. The machine is also designed to be durable. It’s made out of elastic materials and sports front and rear bumpers to help protect it in serious collisions. A video promoting the product shows a user intentionally crashing MetaFly into a tree which seemingly remains undamaged. Tail settings in the Metafly are adjustable – it flies faster in tail down position and is better controlled in its tail up position.
The technology behind MetaFly is the result of some five decades of tinkering by Van Ruymbeke, an aeronautical engineer with experience developing bio-inspired drones. His inspiration he says came from the mechanical bird created jointly by his grandfather and father.
In 2014, Van Ruymbeke managed to successfully raise more than $171,500 on Indiegogo for his Bionic Bird. Biomimicry can be extremely challenging to accomplish — biology has inspired some groundbreaking inventions that save lives and shape the future. MetaFly won’t save the world but it seems like a fun way to spend a few hours.
MetaFly is available for $89 on Kickstarter as of now. It’s expected to be ready for shipping or set on the shelf for sale by September 2019.