Hamid Isakhani working on additive manufacturing of locust wing prototypes

Development of an Autonomous Flapping Wing Robot Locust – Linloc

Hamid Isakhani received B.Eng. in Aeronautics from Visvesvaraya Technological University, and an MSc by Research in Aerospace from Cranfield University in 2015 and 2017, respectively. He was an intern engineer at the Indian Space Research Organisation and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited during the years 2012 and 2014, respectively. He is currently a PhD scholar at the School of Computer Science, University of Lincoln since 2017, and visited Tsinghua University as a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow from 2018-19. As of July 2019, He is seconded to the Huazhong University of Science and Technology to support the progress of the following Tasks and Work Packages included as part of the Project –Ultracept funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska -Curie grant agreement 778062:

  • WP4Systems integration, miniaturization, verification and demonstration

Task 4.4: To build a demonstrator system for the collision avoidance

Ultimately, my doctoral project aims to develop a locust-inspired articulated wing robotic platform capable of performing autonomous flight. This platform shall serve as a demonstrator/testbed to validate the robustness of the vision based collision avoidance system developed as part of the first three work packages included in the projects Step2Dyna and Ultracept. Additionally, completion of this project shall result in the development of a fully-bioinspired flapping wing micro aerial vehicle that is the first of its kind in terms of being entirely inspired by an insect’s flight mechanics, aerodynamics, and avionics.

Significant progress was made at our partner institution, The State Key Laboratory of Digital Manufacturing Equipment and Technology, HUST. Rapid prototyping, manufacturing, and motion capture analysis were some of the vital stages of our project facilitated at this institution.

Hamid Isakhani working on additive manufacturing of locust wing prototypes
Hamid Isakhani working on additive manufacturing of locust wing prototypes

To study the flapping mechanism and gliding behaviour of swarming locusts, we setup a small locust colony at HUST, where we bred adult locusts carefully selected for their physical characteristics indicative of health (strong free-flight ability, good wing condition, etc.).

Small locust colony housing approximately 300 adult Schistocerca gregaria
Small locust colony housing approximately 300 adult Schistocerca gregaria

Specimen are anesthetized in a CO2 chamber for 5 minutes to ease the inlaying of custom-made micro sized retroreflective markers. Each hemispherical marker weighs less than 0.1±0.05mg and 0.5mm in radius to facilitate precise tracking and centroid calculation by the cameras.

CO2 Chamber and retroreflector marked locust
CO2 Chamber and retroreflector marked locust

Generally, due to the resolution limitations of high-speed cameras, capture volumes are highly cramped. Therefore, there is very limited literature on the study of insect free-flight kinematics and their swarm behavior, i.e. the flying insects under experimentation are either tethered or flown in confined flight chambers. However, with the help of a set of well calibrated infrared-based Vicon motion capture system (Vicon, Oxford, UK), consisting of three MX-T160 and four MX-T40s cameras arranged to provide a tracking volume of 0.6×0.6×0.6m, the three-dimensional position and orientation data of a micro swam of gliding locusts are successfully recorded.

Vicon motion capture system consisting of MX-T160 and MX-T40s cameras
Vicon motion capture system consisting of MX-T160 and MX-T40s cameras

Nevertheless, the scientific input and assistance provided by the project director Prof. Yue and the host faculty, Prof. Xiong played a key factor in accomplishing the afore mentioned tasks.
Furthermore, the measured data vectors must be post-processed to derive the kinematic information required to integrate and design an efficient bioinspired wing articulation mechanism mimicking a gliding locust airborne.