Volume 23 Issue 2 - Publication Date: 1 February 2004
Landing Strategies in Honeybees and Applications to Uninhabited Airborne Vehicles
J. S. Chahl Guidance and Control Group, Weapons Systems Division, Australian Defence Science and Technology Organization, Edinburgh, Australia, M. V. Srinivasan and S. W. Zhang Centre for Visual Science, Research School of Biological Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

An application of insect visuomotor behavior to automatic control of landing is explored. Insects, being perhaps more reliant on image motion cues than mammals or higher vertebrates, are proving to be an excellent organism in which to investigate how information on optic flow is exploited to guide locomotion and navigation. We have observed how bees perform grazing landings on a flat surface and have deduced the algorithmic basis for the behavior. A smooth landing is achieved by a surprisingly simple and elegant strategy: image velocity is held constant as the surface is approached, thus automatically ensuring that flight speed is close to zero at touchdown. No explicit knowledge of flight speed or height above the ground is necessary. The feasibility of this landing strategy was tested by implementation in a robotic gantry. We also outline our current efforts at exploring the applicability of this and related techniques to the guidance of uninhabited airborne vehicles (UAVs). Aspects of the algorithm were tested on a small UAV using real imagery to control descent rate.

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