Miniature drones are capable of penetrating placesinaccessible to humans and perform specific tasks in the territory where a person's stay is associated with high danger. Currently, such drones are equipped with a sensor system capable of detecting explosives, detecting gas leaks or finding a person under rubble. Among the sensors used are sensors that react to odors.
The main problem with modern odor sensorslow sensitivity and low reaction rate to the detected aromatic plumes created by various sources. Scientists from the University of Washington have created the Smellicopter drone, which is implanted with natural odor sensors - the antennae of a tobacco hawk moth. According to scientists, natural sensors leave far behind all modern human developments. The integration of a mechanical drone providing controlled movement and highly sensitive natural antennas creates the best device "from both worlds."
To the amputated olfactory antennae of the mothin a cold environment, a tiny wire is connected that can measure the average signals in natural sensors. After the antennae are removed, their functionality is maintained for 4 hours and can be increased if stored in a cold environment.
To compare the sensitivity of a natural sensorwith artificial sniffer sensors, both devices were placed in a wind tunnel, where they fed the smells of floral scent and ethanol, a type of alcohol. The moth's antenna responded faster and quickly switched from one type of smell to another.
When creating a Smellicopter drone usingNatural odor sensors, in addition to the moth whiskers, also installed a special fin on the open source commercial quadrocopter, which provides the yaw, zigzag-like trajectory of the drone. The drone simulates the flight of scent-guided insects. Gradually "sniffing" the space from side to side, when identifying the necessary odors, the drone rushes to their source.
For a safe flight, the drones were also equipped with 4infrared sensors that fly around obstacles by scanning space 10 times per second. Approaching an obstacle by 20 cm, the drone changes the direction of searching for sources of odor. The technology of connecting a mechanical device with natural living organs can be used when studying the territory affected by earthquakes, when searching for people left under the rubble, when looking for unexploded shells or mines planted by terrorists.