Although simple in design, a bee’s small brain and compound eyes form a complex flight control system, giving the insect pinpoint control as it zooms through a 3-D obstacle course of leaves, flowers and honey combs. Researchers have now created a micro-camera that could allow agile micro-unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) the ability to see the world as bees do.

Writing in August 6 issue of the journal Bioinspiration & Biomimetics, Wolfgang Stürzl and his colleagues from the Bielefeld University, Germany, describe how they used a special curved mirror made of acrylic glass to create a camera with a 280-degree view.

Unlike a live honey bee, whose eyes are composed of tiny wedges, each with their own sensor, Stürzl had to cram all that data through a single point. To focus the image, Stürtzl used both a lens, which focused images from the front 150-degrees, and the special curved mirror to collect light from the other 130-degrees. A computer then converted the curved images into pictures that a human could analyze.

The computer processes the images, and stitches them together into a coherent picture, at a rate of 10 miliseconds per frame. At that speed, a computer could easily produce the 25 frames per second needed to produce a flowing movie.

In its current state, the camera lacks the ability to make dynamic adjustments needed for flight. Additionally, to fully simulate the vision of bees, Stürzl needs to add ultraviolet sensors as well, since honey bees see in that wavelength of light.