May 06, 2019

Projection system to study insect vision could lead to new navigational aids

Projection system to study insect vision could lead to new navigational aids

As reported on Phys.org, the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) has partnered with Polaris Sensor Technologies Inc. to design and build a virtual reality-like projection system to study insect vision for the U.S. Air Force. The Air Force is interested in learning how insects use polarization vision to direct themselves. This projection system could lead to the development of a new type of navigation system. 

“Many insects can see and use optical polarization. For example, some insects can see the partial polarization pattern in the sky, which we cannot see without instruments. So think about scenarios in which GPS is not available, such as at the bottom of ‘urban canyons.’ How do you navigate?” asks Dr. Don Gregory, UAH distinguished professor of physics. “Some insects, including bees, ants, and locusts, navigate by sensing the celestial polarization pattern, and it would be pretty cool to understand how they do that and exploit the mechanism to deal with GPS-denied situations.”

“Zemax is the industry standard for optical software,” says Dr. Don Gregory, UAH distinguished professor of physics.


Polaris Sensor Technologies will be doing the design work and UAH is responsible for research into component materials and systems. The two main challenges the team is solving include: 

  • Accurately representing the light spectrum and polarization on a screen

  • Meeting a sufficiently high screen refresh rate

Team member Ahmed Eleshly is an optical science and engineering doctoral student who serves as the expert on OpticStudio. “Zemax is the industry standard for optical software, and I would say there's no one at the university who understands it better than Ahmed,” Dr. Gregory says.

Read more about this project on Phys.org.
 

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