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This self-righting drone was inspired by what insect?

Answer: Ladybugs!

If a fixed-wing drone survives a fall to the ground, it’s still screwed if it happens to land upside down. The same cannot be said for beetles like ladybugs. That’s because of their elytra, or the exterior red and black-spotted wings. If a ladybug lands upside down, it will use its elytra to balance and then right itself in no time.

A research team at the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland was inspired to create the same kind of advantage for fixed-wing drones. Lead by doctoral assistant Charalampos Vourtsis, the team developed a drone that mimics this technique using actuators and a set of artificial elytra.

“Similar to the insect, the artificial elytra feature degrees of freedom that allow them to reorient the vehicle if it flips over or lands upside down,” Vourtsis said. They found that the drones were able to self-right themselves using a set of 17-centimeter elytra in every scenario except on a very steep incline and on grass and sand. The team also found that the elytra added non-negligible lift during flight, offsetting their weight.
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