I weigh less than two €2 coins, I measure about 10cm and I can fly at 72kph. What am I ? I am Skeeter, a micro-drone developed by Animal Dynamics (AnDy), a SME created within the zoology department of England’s Oxford University. Specialised in the development of nature-inspired systems, AnDy is one of the companies whose project will be supported by a new 10-year €900M programme launched on 12 August by the UK Ministry of Defence.
Wth its four autonomous wings Skeeter is directly inspired by the dragon fly and is thus an ornithopter, that is, its lift is ensured by beating wings in the way of birds and insects. “We are focused on understanding and applying insights from evolution that have resulted in exceptional performance and efficiency. Animals have very restricted energy budgets, and are able to achieve remarkable feats of speed and endurance, and this is what inspires our design process (…)” Alex Caccia, CEO of Animal Dynamics, explained to US weekly Newsweek.
All these characteristics ought to give Skeeter a range,
manoeuvrability and maximum speed – 70 kph according to AnDy – almost matching those of the insect that inspired it and will turn it into the eyes and ears of troops deployed in an urban environment. If it works, Skeeter’s performances will make it an ideal replacement for the PD-100 Black Hornet Nano, in service with the British Army since 2013 but which can only fly at 18 kph.
The UK’s drone ambitions don’t stop at the Skeeter: London is about to launch a project provisionally baptised “Autonomy in hazardous scene assessment” aimed at developing airborne and ground robotic systems to analyse areas potentially contaminated by chemical or biological products. The first phase of this €2.31M project will end next August.