A bio-mimetic miniature drone for real-time audio based short-range tracking

Roei Zigelman, Ofri Eitan, Omer Mazar, Anthony Weiss, Yossi Yovel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


One of the most difficult sensorimotor behaviors exhibited by flying animals is the ability to track another flying animal based on its sound emissions. From insects to mammals, animals display this ability in order to localize and track conspecifics, mate or prey. The pursuing individual must overcome multiple non-trivial challenges including the detection of the sounds emitted by the target, matching the input received by its (mostly) two sensors, localizing the direction of the sound target in real time and then pursuing it. All this has to be done rapidly as the target is constantly moving. In this project, we set to mimic this ability using a physical bio-mimetic autonomous drone. We equipped a miniature commercial drone with our in-house 2D sound localization electronic circuit which uses two microphones (mimicking biological ears) to localize sound signals in real-time and steer the drone in the horizontal plane accordingly. We focus on bat signals because bats are known to eavesdrop on conspecifics and follow them, but our approach could be generalized to other biological signals and other man-made signals. Using two different experiments, we show that our fully autonomous aviator can track the position of a moving sound emitting target and pursue it in realtime. Building an actual robotic-agent, forced us to deal with real-life difficulties which also challenge animals. We thus discuss the similarities and differences between our and the biological approach.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1009936
JournalPLoS Computational Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2022


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