The focus of this study is biomimetic concept development for a MEMS sensor array for navigation and water detection.
The MEMS sensor array is inspired by abstractions of the respective biological functions: polarized skylight-based
navigation sensors in honeybees (Apis mellifera) and the ability of African elephants (Loxodonta africana) to detect
water. The focus lies on how to navigate to and how to detect water sources in desert-like or remote areas. The goal is to
develop a sensor that can provide both, navigation clues and help in detecting nearby water sources. We basically use the
information provided by the natural polarization pattern produced by the sunbeams scattered within the atmosphere
combined with the capability of the honeybee’s compound eye to extrapolate the navigation information. The detection
device uses light beam reactive MEMS, which are capable to detect the skylight polarization based on the Rayleigh sky
For water detection we present various possible approaches to realize the sensor. In the first approach, polarization is
used: moisture saturated areas near ground have a small but distinctively different effect on scattering and polarizing
light than less moist ones. Modified skylight polarization sensors (Karman, Diah and Gebeshuber, 2012) are used to
visualize this small change in scattering. The second approach is inspired by the ability of elephants to detect infrasound
produced by underground water reservoirs, and shall be used to determine the location of underground rivers and
visualize their exact routes.