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Plenary Talk :

Insect inspired optic flow sensors and autopilots

Experiments conducted over the last decades have revealed the importance of optic flow cues in insect 3D navigation. We present explicit control schemes which explain how insects may take off and land, follow the terrain, respond suitably to headwind, avoid lateral obstacles and control their ground speed automatically. The concept of the optic flow regulator, a feedback control system based on optic flow sensors, is presented. A few optic flow 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 helicopter and a hovercraft, which behaved much like insects when placed in similar environments. These robots were equipped with electro-optic OF sensors inspired by the motion sensitive neurons that we previously analyzed in the compound eye of flies, by combining single neuron recording with single photoreceptor stimulations. Whilst our robotic demonstrators serve us primarily to validate (or falsify) our working hypotheses about animal behavior, they offer interesting prospects for aerospace engineering because they require neither range sensors nor ground speed sensors.




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