These tiny floating seeds have been made to look natural3 min readReading Time: 2 minutes
Imagine this: You’re walking around in a beautiful wooded area, and the wind blows gently against your face. It’s warm, and the weather is perfect, yet, it somehow seems like it’s snowing. You’re bombarded with a swarm of delicately tiny flying seeds. Gently some of these seeds land on you, and you reach out to pick them off the wool on your sweater. But when you finally pluck a delicate burr off of yourself, you find that it’s not a seed at all. In fact, it’s a tiny surveillance drone, smaller than the size of a pencil nib.
To some, this may sound like an exciting new sci-fi era for drones, while others may find this whole ordeal to be rather nightmarish. Either way, a reality that looks like this is a lot closer than ever before. Scientists from Northwestern University in America have invented the microflier- the smallest human-made flying object.
The microflier isn’t just special because it’s tiny or made by us humans. It’s truly special because of its construction. This particular invention was inspired by nature’s immaculate designs. In fact, the scientists on the project believe that they’ve even outdone nature herself.
“We think we’ve beaten biology, in a sense”, John A. Rogers.
The microflier is a tiny 3D symmetrical object that works a lot like the seeds of a maple tree. The seeds, known as samara fruits, gently glide down from the tree and travel with the wind. Seeds that float in the wind have a naturally beautiful design that allows them to fall gradually to the ground, spending as much time in the breeze as possible.
Plants use the wind to disperse their seeds and reproduce. A seed can travel up to 45 km in the wind.
That’s right, the technology behind is pretyy slickunlike our larger drones and planes, microfliers don’t use motors or batteries to fly. These nature-inspired flying objects use helicopter-like gliding motions to ride around in the wind.
Samara fruits weren’t the only everyday objects that inspired scientists when they came up with microfliers. They were also inspired by the 3D pop-up books that you probably read as a child. The scientists used the mechanics of these pop-up books to make their own creations stand firm and retain their shape as they float in the air. The wings of the flier pop up around a tiny data chip that is capable of collecting data from the environment around it.
Despite their eerie similarity to what we already find in nature, microfliers have been created to come of great use to us humans. Unlike the samara seeds, scientists have been able to control the speed at which these microfliers will glide to the ground. So, unlike samara seeds that usually make their descent rather quickly, microfliers can lazily travel through the air as they gather information for us.
That’s right. Scientists haven’t just created these microfliers to compete with nature and its creations. They believe that once these little fliers are rolled out, they’ll serve us, humans, a host of purposes. Scientists believe that microfliers can be dropped in vast polluted areas to monitor the level of pollution in the air, used to disperse seeds, give us eyes on hard to reach places, and can be dropped in water to monitor the quality of the water and spot floating debris.