Wing-Flapping MAV Flies

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A $2.1 million investment has yielded a hand-sized infrared controlled micro air vehicle (MAV) that flies by flapping its four polyethylene wings up to 30 times per second. Displayed last Monday by Professor Hiroshi Liu, of Japan's Chiba University, the 2.6-gram, four-inch long MAV carries a rechargeable battery that's reportedly good for six minutes of powered flight. The vehicle has yet to demonstrate its ability to hover, which is next on the list, but has demonstrated stable figure-eight flight. Liu plans to ultimately develop the MAV for earthquake-aftermath search missions by equipping it with a tiny camera. The addition of a camera would make it not terribly unlike an existing MAV, the Dutch DelFly Micro, an ornithopter that weighs in (with camera) at about 3 grams and has a flight duration of about three minutes.

Liu specializes in the development of machines based on living beings. "First, we need to learn about effective mechanism from natural life forms, but we want to develop something to go beyond nature eventually," he told Agence France-Presse. Aside from aiding search and rescue in crumbled buildings, Liu suggests his remote-controlled ornithopter might also find use as an extra-terrestrial explorer by flying reconnaissance missions in the Martian atmosphere.