When bees fly in the Bush for food, they need to develop effective strategies to avoid the collision that may cause damage to their wings and body. By perceiving the relationship between the gap between obstacles and their own wingspan and body shape, bees show extraordinary ability to fly safely even in a narrow space. An international study led by researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Canberra has discovered the secret of bees’ self-conscious and dexterous flight, which can be used in the next generation of UAVs and autonomous vehicles.
Lead author Dr Sridhar Ravi studied how bees navigate through a gate with a series of holes of different sizes. Bees can successfully fly through these holes, thanks to their extraordinary perception of their own size and their detailed perception of obstacles and holes.
Dr Ravi said that by scanning the aperture, bees can skillfully pass through the gate by controlling their speed and posture, and even fly sideways when the hole is smaller than their wingspan. This behavior requires awareness of their body shape and size relative to the shape and size of obstacles, which is the first time that such evidence has been seen in flying invertebrates.
“Previous studies have suggested that complex processes, such as perception of self size, are cognitively driven and exist only in animals with large brains. However, our research shows that small as their brains are, they can understand their body size and use this information when flying in complex environments, “Ravi said.
Bees use the process of depth perception and spatial awareness to scan a feature, build a comprehensive aperture map, and can change the direction of their body to adapt to passing through the gap, similar to humans adjusting their shoulders to pass through a narrow door. “We were surprised to see that, in some cases, bees adjusted their sides to fly through gaps that they couldn’t face through. The dexterity of these insects really makes us think about what secrets of bee behavior we can still unravel Dr Ravi said.
The research also provides inspiration for applying the characteristics of bees to robot technology, which has potential applications in the next generation of UAV and autonomous vehicle technology to meet the challenge of flying in real world conditions.
“Insects are wonderful models of robots, because they have an extraordinary cerebellum, but they can perform overly complex tasks. For thousands of years, nature has given insects some amazing properties. Our challenge now is to take advantage of this and apply similar coding to future robotic systems to enhance their performance in nature. ” Dr Ravi said.
Editor in charge: GT