Sensors inspired by spider hair could help autonomous drones better detect and avoid obstacles.
Developed by a team from Purdue University, the bioinspired sensors were based on the mechanosensory nerve endings found in animals like spiders, which can differentiate between minor forces like wind vs. the higher frequency vibrations created by a bug in its web.
The Purdue sensors, which could be embedded in body of a drone or self-driving car, are made up of a stiff material that will quickly change shape when subjected to an external force of a particular threshold. When that shape change occurs, conductive particle within the material make contact and trigger a warning signal to the autonomous vehicle. This selective attention would reduce power needs, since the sensors won't need to constantly check stimulation to determine when to react.