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We developed and flight-tested two biomimetic sensors that use the spectral, spatial and polarization distribution of light in the environment for navigation and stabilization. A sky polarization compass was constructed and methodologies for precise calibration were developed. In static and flight testing, the calibrated device was found to be comparable in accuracy to a solid state magnetic compass. A biomimetic version of the optical stabilization organ of dragonflies known as the ocelli was constructed. A technique of spectral opponency in ultraviolet and green wavelengths was demonstrated to be effective in reducing the biasing effect of the sun. In flight testing, the biomimetic ocelli were implemented as part of the autopilot for maintaining level flight and shown to be effective. The successful results indicate that biomimetic sensors may have a role in the quest to miniaturize the autopilots of small unmanned aerial vehicles.
Date of Publication: Feb. 2012