Airdropping sensors from moths: Researchers use flying insects to drop sensors from air, land them safely on the ground

UW researchers have created a sensor system that can ride on the back of a moth.

UW researchers have created a sensor system that can ride on the back of a moth. Shown here is a Manduca sexta moth with the sensor on its back. Mark Stone/University of Washington

UW researchers have created a sensor system that can ride on the back of a moth. Shown here is a Manduca sexta moth with the sensor on its back. Mark Stone/University of Washington

There are many places in this world that are hard for researchers to study, mainly because it’s too dangerous for people to get there.

The sensor system (shown here on top of a penny) was designed with its battery in one corner (shown here as the disc on the left). As the sensor falls, it begins rotating around the corner with the battery, generating additional drag force and slowing its descent. Iyer et al./MobiCom 2020

The researchers envision using this system to create a sensor network within a study area. For example, researchers could use drones or insects to scatter sensors across a forest or farm that they want to monitor.

Once a mechanism is developed to recover sensors after their batteries have died, the team expects their system could be used in a wide variety of locations, including environmentally sensitive areas. The researchers plan to replace the battery with a solar cell and automate sensor deployment in industrial settings.

The sensor system can also be carried by a small drone. The drone shown here is a commercial quadcopter that was used in the experiments. Mark Stone/University of Washington

Vikram Iyer , a doctoral candidate in electrical and computer engineering; Maruchi Kim , a doctoral candidate in the Allen School; Shirley Xue , a doctoral candidate in the Allen School; and Anran Wang , a doctoral candidate in the Allen School, are also co-authors on this paper.

For more information, contact sensordrop@cs.washington.edu.

Grant numbers: CNS-1812554, CNS-1452494, CNS-182314

Tag(s): College of Engineering o Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering o Shyam Gollakota


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