January 25, 2011 | David F. Coppedge

Update: Maple-Copter Evolves by Design

The rotating helicopter resembling a maple seed, reported on 10/21/2009, has undergone numerous rounds of guided evolution (if that is not an oxymoron).  The clever inventors have been trying numerous successive variations on their design, reported PhysOrg.  The article includes two video clips showing the young engineers, Evan Ulrich, Darryll Pines, and Sean Humbert from the University of Maryland, testing their product.
    The article mentioned that their work has been published in a recent issue of Bioinspiration & Biomimetics.1  The project was inspired by watching samaras – winged seeds of maple trees and other species.  The abstract states, “Inspired by the flight modalities of the bio-inspired samaras, a robotic device has been created that mimics the autorotative capability of the samara, whilst providing the ability to hover, climb and translate.”  They envision the device being useful for surveillance, mapping, communications, or just a really cool toy.


1.  Evan R Ulrich, Darryll J Pines and J Sean Humbert, “From falling to flying: the path to powered flight of a robotic samara nano air vehicle,” Bioinspiration & Biomimetics 5 045009; doi: 10.1088/1748-3182/5/4/045009.

Isn’t this great?  Science can be fun – and inspiring, inspired by nature.  How different the attitude of these engineers than Sam Harris (01/24/2011).
    The evolution talk was just a joke.  “Guided evolution” is an oxymoron; this is intelligent-design science all the way through.  Are the authors of the paper evolutionists?  Does it matter?
    Turn kids onto biomimetics with their own maple-copter toy and a walk under the maple trees, and let science take off again.

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