A Flying Robot Jellyfish Now Exists

And it could usher in a new generation of smaller, cheaper drones

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Tomohiro Ohsumi / Bloomberg / Getty Images

Jellyfish swim in a tank at an aquarium in Tokyo, Japan, on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013.

Applied mathematicians at New York University have fashioned a flying robot out of four carbon fiber wings that beat the air like a jellyfish. Why? Because, they wanted to create the “simplest possible” flying machine, unburdened by propellers and circuitry, according to the Washington Post.

The flying jellyfish weighs as little as two paperclips and can fit in the palm of a hand. Half of its weight comes from a pea-sized motor that propels the wings in a way that its inventors cannot fully explain, according to the Washington Post. In any case, it works, and it could usher in a new era of smaller, cheaper drones that mimic the propulsive techniques of an organism that started beating its mathematically mystifying course through the ocean at least 500 million years ago.