6 Awesome Ornithopter Drone/UAV Applications Explained

Festo Emotionbutterflies – Source; DelFly Credit: Cdewagter – Source; SmartBird Festo – Source

Ornithopter drones/unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also referred to as flapping-wing drones/UAVs are incredible aerial robots that could potentially revolutionise various aspects of our lives.

They are also currently being used in a few important applications to combat serious issues that can lead to dangerous scenarios if not properly addressed.

Here are 6 awesome ornithopter drone/UAV applications:

  • Flying on other planets with thinner atmospheres
  • Military ISR operations
  • Clearing birds from airports
  • Wildlife monitoring and surveying
  • Recreational flying by hobbyists and bird/insect enthusistasts
  • Collection of atmospheric data

How Can Ornithopter UAVs Be Used To Fly On Other Planets With Thinner Atmospheres?

Ornithopters drones/unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), can be used to fly on other planets with thinner atmospheres as their wings can generate a high amount of lift compared to conventional fixed wings while using the same amount of energy at similar sizes.

We are specifically referring to entomopters (types of ornithopters) that use the biology and wing-flapping aerodynamics of insects.

This is probably the coolest application ornithopters theoretically could have in our opinion and is a huge advantage to this configuration over any other type of drone.

Check out our full post where we dive into the advantages and disadvantages of ornithopter drones:

Related Post: 11 Ornithopter Drone/UAV Advantages+Disadvantages Explained

These drones could be fitted with various payloads to inspect and gather samples on the surface of Mars.

Researchers are currently working on confirming these theories and a future mission could very likely entail using an entomopter drone on Mars.

How Can Ornithopter Drones/UAVs Be Used In Military ISR Operations?

Ornithopter drones/unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can be used in military Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance operations by blending in with and posing as flying animals to gather intelligence on a target.

Biomimicry enables these robots to be created and modelled after a certain bird, bat, or even insect while artificially replicating their biology. They are also typically built to scale helping with the illusion.

Check out our full post on ornithopter drones where we dive into how they work, the types, applications, parts/components, advantages/disadvantages, propulsion systems and examples:

Related Post: What Are Ornithopters? Flapping-Wing Drones/UAVs Explained

These types of UAVs have the potential to transport small and lightweight electro-optical cameras/sensors.

This is not just fiction. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has actually worked on an entomopter designed to resemble a dragonfly fitted with a camera for spy missions called the Insectothopter.

This project was ultimately cancelled but this idea is still a viable option for these sorts of operations.

Why Are Ornithopter Drones/UAVs Used To Clear Birds From Airports?

Ornithopter drones/unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are used to clear birds from airports to prevent birds from striking a passenger aeroplane, especially its engines.

The operator of the ornithopter drone will attempt to scare the birds in a certain direction that is clear of any active runway and attempt to drive them away from the airport.

This is a very serious issue that is a lot more common than most believe. A large bird can do some serious damage if it strikes the wrong part of an aeroplane.

Ornithopter drones will often be equipped with electro-optical cameras for the operator but may not as they are typically flown within visual line of sight of the operator.

The Canada-based company Aerium Analytics is currently using their ornithopter drone called the Robird which is inspired by a falcon to scare away birds from an airport in Canada.

How Can Ornithopter Drones/UAVs Be Used For Wildlife Tracking & Monitoring?

Ornithopter drones/unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can be used for wildlife tracking & monitoring by replicating the shape and size of a specific flying animal and following and monitoring them in their natural habitats to learn more about their species.

They attempt to camouflage themselves and watch from a distance to better understand their patterns and behaviour.

We still don’t fully understand our planet and the creatures that live in it. Ornithopter drones can give researchers insights into these flying animals and how they live.

They attempt to blend in with them so as to not scare them away.

Electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensors are often used for these types of operations to keep track of and localise the animal.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife has used ornithopter drones in the form of a radio-controlled hawk to aid in capturing the endangered Gunnison sage-grouse found in Colorado and Utah in the USA to help them.

How Are Ornithopter Drones/UAVs Used For Recreational Flying By Hobbyists+Bird/Insect Enthusistasts?

Ornithopter drones/unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are used for recreational flying by hobbyists and bird/insect enthusiasts as the form and biology of their favourite animals can be admired and controlled in flight.

This is an incredible opportunity for bird/insect enthusiasts as they get to fly and control an ornithopter drone that has replicated their favourite type of bird or insect.

It’s also simply really cool to see a drone flap its wings and actually fly. Fitting a forward-facing electro-optical camera and immersing yourself in first-person view can make it that much better.

It’s truly a unique experience that you won’t find in other configurations typically used in drones such as the fixed-wing UAV configuration and the rotary-wing UAV configuration.

Check out our full posts on what fixed-wing UAVs are and what rotary-wing UAVs are to learn more about these types of UAVs.

How Can Ornithopter Drones/UAVs Be Used To Collect Atmospheric Data?

Meteorological drones collect atmospheric data that consists of sampling the air using payloads in the atmosphere to measure and monitor things such as climate change over time.

Ornithopter drones/unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can be used to collect atmospheric data by flying to the atmosphere and taking measurements using certain payloads.

These types of UAVs have the potential to glide if designed to do so which can increase their overall flight time making them a viable solution to these high-altitude missions.

Their wings can generate a large amount of lift which is why they are capable of efficiently flying in thin air.

The most popular types of drones typically used for these sorts of operations are unmanned aerostats.

Edinburgh sensors are very popular for taking air samples.


These were a few applications we felt would be best suited to ornithopter drones.

If you’d like to learn more about these types of UAVs, we highly recommend you check out our main post on what ornithopter drones are and how they work.

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