Ready for Transfer

Fly-Inspired Acoustic Sensor

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Laboratory: Army Research Laboratory (ARL), Sensors and Electron Devices Directorate

Technology: Highly accurate, micro-electrical-mechanical (MEMS) directional acoustic sensor

Opportunity: Available for licensing and CRADA opportunities. The inventor team is available to work with the commercialization partner.

Details: Inspired by biomimetics, this inventionrepresents a huge leap forward in acoustic sensor technology. It possesses unrivaled directional accuracy and capability for miniaturization. Conventional systems can't be properly miniaturized becausethe microphonesget too close together to keep their directional sensitivity. In collaboration with the University of Maryland, ARL scientists studied Ormia ochracea, a small parasitic fly that has a unique hearing organ with interconnected, tympani-like membranes to develop this new sensor. Itmimicsthose mechanics to replicatethe fly's capability for localizing sound, using MEMS machining techniques tailored to fabricating the components at a small size-scale—less than 5 millimeters.These precision machining techniques result in a sensor that can be up to 10 times smaller and 20 times better than conventional devices.


  • Coupled three- and four-membrane devices are being fabricated to investigate multi-dimensional azimuth and elevation angles.
  • Size and frequency ranges are scalable to meet different applications' needs.
  • Production costs are expected to be similar to other MEMS devices.

Potential Applications:

MEMS microphone and acoustic sensor technology markets have explodedin the past 10 years. It's now a multibillion dollar market, with hundreds of millions of MEMS acoustic devices sold. This sensor has a variety of commercial and military operations, including:

  • Non-intrusive sound localization for law enforcement and security
  • Acoustic receiver for navigation of autonomous robots and vehicles
  • Enhancement of hearing aids
  • Medical acoustic imaging
  • Sensors to pinpoint sniper or mortar fire
  • Navigation of small robotic platforms
  • Soldier-worn device to localize threats

Contact: Mike Rausa, ARL-ORTA

View the Army's original listing to learn more about the technology.