December 15, 2020

This Flying Drone Knows What that Smell Is

Smells can tell us a lot about a situation or the condition of things, such as the ripeness of fruits or if milk has expired. Often, more dangerous smells go unnoticed by the human nose, so scientists have come up with a drone with finely tuned smell detectors.

The robot – called “smellicopter” – was developed by researchers from the University of Washington and the University of Maryland, as part of a project to create devices that can navigate situations where sending a person is simply not possible, such as a disaster area or detecting a gas leak in a mine.

The palm-sized, customisable quadcopter was influenced by nature and uses antennae from a hawkmoth, which has evolved to pick up the faintest of particles in the air, and uses this smell-based navigation to find food and mates.

By adding wires to the sensitive organs, the electrical signals can be used to create a “cast and surge” protocol, which involves the smellicopter searching for a scent – once detected, it will create a flight path for the source.

The smellicopter has major potential for saving lives, and searching for who smelt it and dealt it.

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