As cars go driverless and machines talk to each other, we may be approaching yet another transformative period in industrialization. One thing that hasn’t changed in our imagination through the previous three Industrial revolutions is how nature continues to inspire innovations.
Take the gannet, the ‘missle bird’. An awesome video from National Geographic:
The first element of this bird’s success as a predator is a monocular optic flow based vision and guidance system, which is cutting edge in man-made UAV designs today. We know this intuitively as ‘bird vision’. We take it for granted that the Hawk can spot a rabbit from 2 miles away, and then keep it in focus as it dives at over 100 mph.
But consider that it is not the vision hardware alone that makes this fascinating and instructive for modern machines. It is how vision, motion, aerodynamics and above all the control system comes together for perfect execution of a mission. The Gannet can achieve a 100 kmph (60 mph) dive speed, then hit the water with aerodynamic precision, go up to 40 feet under water, and end up with up to 5 fish per dive. With its grace and lethal strike force, the gannet is one bird that fascinates and serves as a benchmark for engineering to strive toward.
To me, this does not mean mimicry of nature. Of unmanned aerial vehicles and submarine killers (although it could be!) but of
Vision. Motion. Controls.
All coming together with an elegant precision in modern complex systems with a nod to nature and a sustainable future.