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Winged drones look and move like real butterflies

The butterflies aren't for sale. There were developed solely for research purposes.

By Brooks Hays
Winged drones look and move like real butterflies
The winged robot butterflies are maneuvered by a series of cameras and an external processing unit. Photo by Festo

HANOVER, Germany, March 28 (UPI) -- German robotics company Festo makes robots inspired by nature. Its newest invention, a winged drone, may be its most realistic yet. The eMotionButterflies look, fly and behave like real butterflies.

The company unveiled its latest developments during an online press conference at this week's Hannover Messe 2015, an annual trade fair for industrial technology. As part of their press conference demonstration, several robotic butterflies were unleashed in the lobby of Festo headquarters.

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Because the lifelike butterflies are a mere 32 grams -- too light and delicate to handle motion sensors or a complex processing unit -- their visual analysis capabilities must be outsourced.

A series of cameras around the lobby monitored the robots' movements and the system's superior understanding of the space's architecture to instruct each butterfly's maneuvers. The interconnected system allows the group of butterflies to navigate the room without bumping into walls, objects or each other.

"The intelligent networking system creates a guidance and monitoring system, which could be used in the networked factory of the future," Festo claims on their website.

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The butterflies aren't for sale. There were developed solely for research purposes.

"With the butterflies themselves, Festo is taking another step into the areas of miniaturization, lightweight construction and functional integration," the company writes. "The eMotionButterflies impress with an intelligently employed mechanical system and the smallest possible power units in the tightest space. The reduced use of materials enables the true-to-nature flying behavior."

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