Modified Chip Design for Nanodrones

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Researchers at MIT have designed Navion- a modified chip with power consumption reduced from 2 watts to 24 milliwatts

Navion is a 20 square millimetre chip that consumes only 24 milliwatts of power. To determine its location in space, the chip uses inertial measurements and real-time camera images that can be processed up to 171 frames per second.

Optimised power consumption

Most of a standard drone’s power is consumed in aviation, making it difficult to sustain navigation and state estimation. The previous chip was designed to perform state estimation with 2 watts of power which was much greater than 100 milliwatts, the total amount of power miniature drones can carry.

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Rather than modifying the existing design, the team at Massachusetts Institute of Technology has rebuilt the chip, exercising design flexibility and alternatives. By optimising data storage, flow and eliminating extraneous operations, the chip’s memory has been reduced from 2 megabytes to 0.8 megabytes.

Towards a flexible future

The current design of Navion makes it a potential pillar for insect-sized cameras and miniature drones. Additionally, its adaptability to different environments makes it suitable for energy efficient purposes.

“I can imagine applying this chip to low-energy robotics, like flapping-wing vehicles the size of your fingernail, or lighter than air vehicles like weather balloons, that have to go for months on one battery,” says Sertac Karaman, a member of the Laboratory at MIT. “Or imagine medical devices like a little pill you swallow, that can navigate in an intelligent way on very little battery so it doesn’t overheat in your body.

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