Even though birds and bugs do it all the time, engineers have yet to perfectly adapt flapping wings for drones. While flapping wings are very efficient and aid in maneuverability, it takes a brain to control them properly. Brains, especially robot ones, take up space and payload capacities. That's why it's so impressive that the folks at DelFly have actually gotten a thinking, flapping robot dragonfly off the ground.
The drone is called the DelFly Explorer, and thanks to its lightweight stereo-vision system it can actually see where it's going. Two little cameras and a tiny computer brain work to take in visual data and adjust the robot dragonfly's trajectory. In total the Explorer's "brain" weighs a mere four grams, which is still a quarter of the drone's total mass.
Another component that adds weight to the drone is the battery, which also gives the Explorer nine minutes of autonomous flight time. While the Explorer itself might only be a proof of concept for autonomous flapping-wing drones, its mere existence paves the way for other ultra-light drones that will be able to think for themselves and fly without a tether.
Even Amazon's delivery drones and other flying 'bots can benefit from a navigation system that weighs less than a single sheet of notebook paper. Someday, you might even be hard pressed to distinguish whether that pest buzzing about your head is a robot or a real insect.