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Dreams of the World: Flight Simulation of Robotic Birds with Cameron Rose, UC Berkeley

Dreams of the World: One Dream a Time. This post is the latest in the series Dreams of the World, which profiles interesting people Kike meets during his travels. Drones and Small Unmanned Aerial Systems Special Series.  ¨My dream is to be able to contribute one day to advancing the field of robotics enough to achieve something even close to the level...

Dreams of the World: One Dream a Time. This post is the latest in the series Dreams of the World, which profiles interesting people Kike meets during his travels. Drones and Small Unmanned Aerial Systems Special Series

Cameron Rose from the Biomimetic Millisystems Lab from the University of California Berkeley with his flying H2Bird robot. Photo © KIKE CALVO

¨My dream is to be able to contribute one day to advancing the field of robotics enough to achieve something even close to the level of maneuverability and control that animals possess in nature,¨ said Cameron Rose, a graduate student in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley. ¨There is so much to be learned from behaviors and control surfaces of animals that can be applied to robotics.

Rose, 25, graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering. Today, he is a member of Prof. Ron Fearing’s Biomimetic Millisystems Laboratory, and his research focuses on modeling and control of flapping-winged robots in flight away from equilibrium. ¨I also dream to use my knowledge and passion for robotics to encourage other African American students to pursue similar paths. There are so many middle and high school students that don’t have the same opportunities that I had growing up. If I can do anything to fix that, be it through simply speaking at schools or showing my robots, I’d like to help. I’d like to see the number of African Americans pursuing undergraduate degrees and PhDs in engineering increase.¨

¨I was always fascinated with planes and flight growing up,¨ said Rose. ¨I liked to play with everything from paper airplanes, to building models, to launching model rockets. I have many memories of my dad out in the field behind my house launching all sorts of flying things into the air.¨

Rose is inspired by his grandfather in the way that he approaches his life. ¨He always puts his family and God first,¨ said Rose. ¨The level of passion and joy he has for photography is remarkable in the face of some of the hardship that is in his life. I hope to achieve that level of passion and happiness from my work in spite of the tough times that may arise.¨

¨When I was in high school, I was in the Civil Air Patrol,¨ said Rose. ¨I had the opportunity to attend Solo Flight School, where I could get the classroom training and flight time to work towards my solo flight and eventually my pilot’s license. I’ll never forget the first time I was able to take the plane up in the cockpit by myself. It was one of the most exhilarating and honestly terrifying moments of my life. Fortunately, there were no problems, and I successfully completed the flight by myself. I’ll never forget the feeling of accomplishment, freedom, and relief, when I successfully landed the plane at the end of the flight.¨

Regarding the FAA regulations Rose thinks there should be licenses for operating civilian drones in public settings to ensure people know how to operate them safely around others to avoid injury.

Rose Master’s thesis “Flight Simulation of an Ornithopter” has been published by the University of California. His paper “Cooperative Control and Modeling for Narrow Passage Traversal with an Ornithopter and Ground Station,” was in the 2013 Autonomous Agent and Multiagent Systems (AAMAS) Conference.

¨The H2Bird is a 13 gram flapping-winged robot that includes custom-designed electronics for sensing and control,¨ explained Rose.¨ Flapping flight provides high maneuverability necessary for navigating in indoor environments on a small mass scale. Building fliers on such a small scale is made possible by advances in the size scale of electronics and sensor packages, and through study of flapping aerodynamics. Additionally, minimizing the power consumption of the motors and electronics has enabled flight times up to 5 minutes. The goals of the current project are to develop optimal control policies for single or multiple vehicles to achieve sensing and navigation among un-modeled obstacles such as doors and walls. One of the possible applications for the project in the future is within the realm of disaster relief. If a group of sensor-equipped crawlers and fliers can be released into something like a collapsed building, they can help locate survivors or areas that could be dangerous for humans.¨

5 good things people should know about drones:

  • They’re good for more than just military applications.
  • Occurrences in nature that could not ordinarily be photographed or recorded by humans can be captured with the aid of drones.
  • Drones can be used in emergency situations in conditions that would be dangerous to humans.
  • Drones can be used to transport materials on repetitive journeys that would be a waste of human resources.
  • Drones can be used to create art.

5 things people probably are not aware when it comes to drones:

  • Not all drones are quadrotors.
  • The large majority of them are not armed.
  • Civilian users of drones are increasing more rapidly than military-use drones.
  • More information on your life can be gained simply by using your cell phone than a drone can provide.
  • There are a wide variety of non-military applications for drones that are beneficial.

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Learn More:

A History of Aerodynamics: And Its Impact on Flying Machines (Cambridge Aerospace Series)

Micro Spies: Spy Planes the Size of Birds! (24/7: Science Behind the Scenes: Spy Files)

Fixed and Flapping Wing Aerodynamics for Micro Air Vehicle Applications (Progress in Astronautics and Aeronautics)

Amazing Leonardo da Vinci Inventions You Can Build Yourself (Build It Yourself series)

Aerodynamics of Low Reynolds Number Flyers (Cambridge Aerospace Series)

Flight dynamics and system identification for modern feedback control: Avian-inspired robots (Woodhead Publishing in Mechanical Engineering)

Introduction to Remote Sensing, Fifth Edition

Introduction to Unmanned Aircraft Systems

Drone Entrepreneurship: 30 Businesses You Can Start


Fun ornithopter toys:

GREEN Radio Control Flying Bird

QEZ Ornithopter Kit

Mind Crafts Boy Scouts of America Modern Flight Activity Kit

Timmy Bird

BLUE Radio Control Flying Bird

Elenco Da Vinci Great Kite

RC Flying Bird

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Flying Machine Model

Additional Readings: 

Cool stuff for Drone and Unmanned Vehicle enthusiasts

Thermal Imaging Cameras: Characteristics and Performance

Infrared Detectors, Second Edition

Nanoelectronics: Nanowires, Molecular Electronics, and Nanodevices

Microclimate for Cultural Heritage, Second Edition: Conservation, Restoration, and Maintenance of Indoor and Outdoor Monuments

Cognitive-Behavioral Strategies in Crisis Intervention, Third Edition

Crime Analysis With Crime Mapping

Introduction to Remote Sensing, Fifth Edition

Introduction to Unmanned Aircraft Systems

Getting Started with Hobby Quadcopters and Drones: Learn about, buy and fly these amazing aerial vehicles

Drone Art: Baltimore

The Media Source Presents Drones: Are They Watching You? Magazine

Rise of the Drones II: Examining the Legality of Unmanned Targeting: One Hundred Eleventh Congress, Second Session, April 28, 2010

Drone Pilot (Cool Careers)

2011 Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Encyclopedia: UAVs, Drones, Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), Weapons and Surveillance – Roadmap, Flight Plan, Reliability Study, Systems News and Notes

Fly by Wire Aircraft: Fighters, Drones, and Airliners


Here is a list of cool flying toys:

Westminster Flying Pig

Air Swimmers Remote Control Flying Clownfish

Flutterbye Pink African American Flying Fairy Doll

Angry Birds Air Swimmers Turbo – RED Flying Remote Control Balloon Toy

BLUE Radio Control Flying Bird

Syma S107/S107G R/C Helicopter *Colors Vary

Remote Control Flying Saucer

Planes U-Command Remote Controlled Dusty Plane

John N Hansen Co. Remote Control Flying Spaceman

ARDrone from Parrot

Badboy Quadcopter With Camera


Popular drones include:

ARDrone from Parrot

Phantom by DJI Innovations


WLtoys V929 Beetle 4-Axis Quadcopter Dexterous Mini UFO RTF

Walkera QR LadyBird V2 Mini Quadcopter W/ Devo 4 Radio, RTF

Futaba 9C: The User’s Guide (Modeller’s World)



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Meet the Author

Author Photo Kike Calvo
Award-winning photographer, journalist, and author Kike Calvo (pronounced key-keh) specializes in culture and environment. He has been on assignment in more than 90 countries, working on stories ranging from belugas in the Arctic to traditional Hmong costumes in Laos. Kike is pioneering in using small unmanned aerial systems to produce aerial photography as art, and as a tool for research and conservation. He is also known for his iconic photographic project, World of Dances, on the intersection of dance, nature, and architecture. His work has been published in National Geographic, New York Times, Time, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, New York Magazine, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair, among others. Kike teaches photography workshops and has been a guest lecturer at leading institutions like the School of Visual Arts and Yale University. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic blog Voices. He has authored nine books, including Drones for Conservation; So You Want to Create Maps Using Drones?; Staten Island: A Visual Journey to the Lighthouse at the End of the World; and Habitats, with forewords by David Doubilet and Jean-Michel Cousteau. Kike’s images have been exhibited around the world, and are represented by the National Geographic Image Collection. Kike was born in Spain and is based in New York. When he is not on assignment, he is making gazpacho following his grandmother’s Andalusian recipe. You can travel to Colombia with Kike: