At first glance, this flying jellyfish prototype doesn't look very much like a jellyfish, but appearances aren't everything. As you can see in the video below, the four-winged robot replicates jellyfish-like motions when moving up and down.
Researchers from NYU led by Dr. Leif Ristroph built the bobbing-in-the-air robot to prove the stability of such a design. The four wings are arranged like flower petals and can flap 20 times per second, and that's basically it. The major difference between this design and other flapping-wing micro-aerial vehicles is the lack of an automated flight control system or other major hardware. Those things weigh a craft down and add complexity, while a design like this is as simple as it gets.
That simplicity is key, says Ristroph, for miniaturizing the robot in the future for search and rescue missions. The researchers say that they'd ultimately like to get the size of the robot down to a centimeter, which would allow it to fit into small spaces and fly undetected.
They still have a long way to go on this prototype since it's attached to an external power source and can't steer, either autonomously or via remote control, but now that the design has been proven, the fine-tuning can begin.