A bio-inspired optic flow based autopilot for guiding a miniature hovercraft in corridors

  • Serres Julien
  • Dray David
  • Ruffier Franck
  • Franceschini Nicolas

  • Bionics
  • Biorobotics
  • Insect flight
  • Indoor navigation
  • OF optic flow
  • MAV micro-air vehicle
  • Hovercraft


Our recent observations on honeybees' flying in an experimental flight tunnel have shown that in addition to the well known 'centering behavior' bees also display 'wall-following' behaviour. We have developed an autopilot, called LORA III, which is inspired by these insect behaviors. It incorporates two interdependent optic flow (OF) regulators, each of which controls one translational degree of freedom: a bilateral OF regulator controls the robot's speed automatically, while a unilateral OF regulator makes the robot avoid the lateral obstacles. Simulation of a fully actuated hovercraft incorporating pair of lateral, OF-sensing eyes show that this robot is able to cross a straight or tapered corridor. This minimalistic visual guidance system suffices to control both speed and clearance from obstacles automatically, without requiring any speed and range sensors. LORA III is a first step toward lightweight and power-lean guidance systems for micro-air vehicles.