Most flying robots, but not all, are small, so they can access hard-to-reach places. Some designed to emulate insects can be as tiny as real insects. Most flying robots use a helicopter-style design (three to 12 or more rotors) or emulate the movements of birds. Some bird-like designs glide. Others incorporate the much more difficult-to-achieve locomotion of flapping.
Flying robots can serve a wide variety of purposes. Many work in swarms, cooperating with one another to accomplish their tasks. Surveillance, reconnaissance, and search and rescue in military and first responder situations are popular applications for aerial robots.
Yet not all these robots are considered unmanned aerial vehicles. Some have been used to assemble architectural structures or perform agricultural duties such as crop dusting or pollination. Many are autonomous. Some are remote-controlled, and some are autonomous robots with real-time communication from remote pilots.
Click the image below for a slideshow of examples of these robots.
The Nano Air Vehicle, a DARPA-funded hummingbird-like demonstrator robot made by AeroVironment, flaps its wings to fly in any direction. The remote-controlled Nano can hover with precision like the real bird, and it can fly clockwise and counterclockwise. It weighs 19gm (0.67oz), including batteries, video camera, motors, and communications systems, and it has a wingspan of 16cm (6.3 inches). Its size and weight are within the range of real hummingbirds, and, like them, it uses its wings for control and propulsion. The Nano can hover continuously on its own power source for eight minutes. It can shift from hovering to a forward flight speed of 17.7kph (11mph). While hovering, the Nano can tolerate side wind gusts of up to 8kph (5mph) without losing more than 1m (3.28 feet) of altitude. (Source: AeroVironment)
There are varying definitions of what makes a robot autonomous. Some flying or ground robots can carry out missions autonomously, according to yars' definition, but also have communication with a remote pilot. The point of that link is so the pilot can decide to tell the robot to do other things once the pilot has examined video sent back by the robot. This combination capability is often used in military applications.
FYI, autonomous vehicles are exactly that - they have the resources to carry out their assigned mission without any intervention from remotely-located pilots. Remotely-piloted vehicles are another class, altogether.
Yes, good to have choice, but probably realism is best. I seem to remember some really beautiful artful-like flying robot that you wrote about (I can't recall the name nor the post) and I was suprised not to see it in the slideshow. It was one of the loveliest (if I can use that word!) flying robots I'd ever seen. Do you remember, Ann? Or maybe someone else wrote about it...
Nadine, I agree--still slides of these machines don't tell the whole story. But if you go to YouTube and enter "Robo Raven", you'll find at least one recent video showing its moves, and also being attacked by a hawk.
AnandY, interesting idea, but they've all been designed to be as light as possible, and couldn't carry our weight, That said, there are efforts by some of these folks to give humans flying suits. Check out the video here: http://raffaello.name/dynamic-works/actuated-wingsuits
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