Airdropping Sensor Networks from Drones and Insects

We present the first system that can airdrop wireless sensors from small drones and live insects. [Link]

In addition to the challenges of achieving low-power consumption and long-range communication, airdropping wireless sensors is difficult because it requires the sensor to survive the impact when dropped in mid-air. Our design takes inspiration from nature: small insects like ants can fall from tall buildings and survive because of their tiny mass and size. Inspired by this, we design insect-scale wireless sensors that come fully integrated with an onboard power supply and a lightweight mechanical actuator to detach from the aerial platform.

Our system introduces a first-of-its-kind 37 mg mechanical release mechanism to drop the sensor during flight, using only 450 μJ of energy as well as a wireless communication link that can transmit sensor data at 33 kbps up to 1 km. Once deployed, our 98 mg wireless sensor can run for 1.3-2.5 years when transmitting 10-50 packets per hour on a 68 mg battery. We demonstrate attachment to a small 28 mm wide drone and a moth (Manduca sexta) and show that our insect-scale sensors flutter as they fall, suffering no damage on impact onto a tile floor from heights of 22m.





Paper:

Airdropping Sensor Networks from Drones and Insects(ACM MobiCom 2020)