It seems logical that if you're designing a flying robot, you might borrow a few ideas from Mother Nature's airborne repertoire. But researchers at NYU instead too their inspiration from under the sea for this unusual robotic craft that flies through the air the same way a jellyfish moves through the ocean.
A set of four vertically mounted wings all squeeze together in unison, forcing air downwards in a jet similar to how a jellyfish propels itself forward with a blast of water. And while the robot's design may look overly simplistic, that works to its advantage since it naturally stays upright without the need for complicated avionics or servos.
And while the robot's lightweight frame allows it to drift on the breeze and travel long distances with minimal amounts of energy, the researchers at NYU feel it could be scaled up to include sensors and other reconnaissance devices. Kind of a like a reusable weather balloon that won't explode at high altitude, or leave your legs covered in painful stings. [New Scientist]