Tech Briefs Magazine - July 2021 - 22

Aeronautics
cy as they shrink in size. For insect-sized
drones, the alternative has been to
employ a small,
from piezoelectric ceramic materials.
While piezoelectric ceramics allowed
the first generation of tiny robots to
take flight, they're quite fragile. And
that's a problem when you're building a
robot to mimic an insect - foraging
bumblebees endure a collision about
once every second.
The team designed a more resilient
tiny drone using soft actuators instead
of hard, fragile ones. The soft actuators
are made of thin rubber cylinders coated
in carbon nanotubes. When voltage
is applied to the carbon nanotubes,
they produce an electrostatic force that
squeezes and elongates the rubber cyl -
rigid actuator built
inder. Repeated elongation and contraction
cause the drone's wings to beat
nearly 500 times per second, giving the
drone insect-like resilience. The drones
can be hit when they are flying and
recover and can also perform aggressive
maneuvers like somersaults in the
air. The drones weigh 0.6 grams or ap -
proximately the mass of a large bumblebee.
The drone looks a bit like a tiny
cassette tape with wings, though the
team is working on a new prototype
shaped like a dragonfly.
Because of the soft actuators' inherent
compliance, the robot can safely
run into obstacles without greatly
inhibiting flight. This feature is wellsuited
for flight in cluttered, dynamic
environments and could be very useful
for any number of real-world applications.
A key step toward those applications
will be untethering the robots
from a wired power source, which is
currently re quired by the actuators'
high operating voltage.
The mini drones could navigate
complex machinery to ensure safety
and functionality; for example, when in -
specting a turbine engine. The drone
needs to move around an enclosed
space with a small camera to check for
cracks on the turbine plates. Other
potential applications include artificial
pollination of crops or completing
search-and-rescue missions following a
disaster.
For more information, contact Abby
Aba zorius at abbya@mit.edu; 617-253-2709.
Drones Use Machine Learning to Detect Landmines
Dangerous " butterfly " landmines can be detected using low-cost drones and infrared cameras.
Binghamton University, Binghamton, New York
U
sing advanced machine learning,
drones could be used to detect dangerous
" butterfly " landmines in remote
regions of post-conflict countries. Re -
searchers had previously developed a
method that allowed for highly accurate
detection of butterfly landmines using
low-cost commercial drones equipped
with infrared cameras. New research
focuses on automated detection of landmines
using convolutional neural networks,
the standard machine learning
method for object detection and classification
in the field of remote sensing.
The previous work relied on humaneye
scanning of the dataset. Rapid droneassisted
mapping and automated detection
of scatterable mine fields would
assist in addressing the deadly legacy of
widespread use of small scatterable landmines
in recent armed conflicts and
allow development of a functional framework
to effectively address their possible
future use.
It is estimated that there are at least
100 million military munitions and
explosive devices in the world of various
size, shape, and composition. Millions of
these are surface plastic landmines with
low-pressure triggers, such as the massproduced
butterfly landmine. Nick -
named for their small size and butterflylike
shape, these mines are extremely
difficult to locate and clear due to their
small size, low trigger mass, and most sig22
Cov
PFM-1
Landmine
Explosive Capsule
Fuze Well
Plastic " butterfly " wing
An inert PFM-1 plastic anti-personal landmine with a small coin for scale.
nificantly, a design that mostly excluded
metal components, making these de -
vices virtually invisible to metal detectors.
The design of the mine, combined
with a low triggering weight, earned it
www.techbriefs.com
ToC
notoriety as the " toy mine " due to a high
casualty rate among small children who
find these devices while playing.
The researchers believe that these
de tection and mapping techniques are
Tech Briefs, July 2021
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Tech Briefs Magazine - July 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Tech Briefs Magazine - July 2021

Tech Briefs Magazine - July 2021 - Intro
Tech Briefs Magazine - July 2021 - Sponsor
Tech Briefs Magazine - July 2021 - Cov1
Tech Briefs Magazine - July 2021 - Cov2
Tech Briefs Magazine - July 2021 - 1
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Tech Briefs Magazine - July 2021 - Cov3
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