What’s All the Buzz About?

Air Force Office of Scientific Research-sponsored engineers are exploring the ears on flies to see how they might influence the design of miniature acoustic sensors and sound localization techniques used with future mini unmanned aerial vehicles. Combined with vision technologies, these artificial hearing systems may help such UAVs to navigate in hard-to-access locations and have improved homing capabilities. Dr. Miao Yu, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland, is leading the team of researchers. Already her team has discovered that it is possible to replicate the performance and design of the fly ear, which is considered an optimal structure for acoustic directional cues at 5 kHz. “We need to determine how best to formulate design guidelines and implement these fly-inspired miniature acoustic sensors because all current use is based on large-scale microphone arrays,” said Yu. Once that is done, the next step will be to build and test an artificial fly UAV with the “ears” and see how well they perform with regard to sound detection and localization. Eventually, there may even be acoustic networks for communications between UAVs and underwater vehicles. (AFOSR report by Maria Callier)