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Robo-fly steadies flight with onboard sensor

A light sensor that looks like a pyramid keeps this robotic fly from tumbling out of the sky. It is the first time an onboard sensor has kept a fly-sized robot stable during flight. 

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A fly-sized flying robot doesn't crash and burn thanks to an onboard light sensor inspired by those of live flies and honeybees.

These insects have ocelli — three light sensors that are distinct from their compound eyes — that could help stabilize their upward flight by sensing the horizon or sun. When an ocelli-inspired sensor was strapped aboard a fly-sized robot, the sensor kept the robot steady during a 0.3-second climb, researchers report June 18 in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface. 

The study appears to be the first to scale down an onboard sensor to fit on a fly-sized robot and steady its flight. The results also support a hypothesis for how ocelli work to stabilize the flight of honeybees and possibly other living insects, the scientists say.

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