Within the insect world, honeybees exhibit extraordinary navigational capabilities. Bees learn the structure of their environment and even if they are displaced over hundreds of meters (due to strong winds of curious researchers) they recognize landmarks and immediately know which way to go home.

A fascinating aspect of navigation is the waggle dance communication system with which foragers can direct nestmates to field locations. The waggle dance essentially communicates polar coordinates of field sites. After decoding a dance, honeybees have been shown to perform shortcut flights between known and dance-advertised sites over novel terrain, a behavior that indicates that geometrical relationship between location memories are represented in the bee brain.

However, analytical approaches to investigate the neural correlates face a technological dilemma: to this date, there is no lab-based protocol available to study all aspects of long-range navigation in flying honeybees, e.g. using virtual environments as shown in fruit flies). Recording units that can be carried by the honeybees themselves are not yet available.

In our project we follow both the synthetic and the analytic approach by implementing and testing computational neural models in silico and by developing a flying robotic platform for electrophysiological observations while the animal is navigating in the field.


Institute of Neurobiology, Free University Berlin

Prof. Dr. Dr. hc. Randolf Menzel, Benjamin Paffhausen

Institute of Neurobiology and Animal Physiology, University Cologne

Prof. Dr. Martin Nawrot

Biorobotics Lab, Institute of Computer Science, Free University Berlin

Prof. Dr. Tim Landgraf, Benjamin Wild, Julian Petrasch, Johannes Polster, Jurek Müller


The project is kindly funded by the Klaus-Tschira-Foundation (Landgraf/Menzel).

Latest posts in NeuroCopter

New prototype of NeuroCopter successfully tested (7/4/2017) Posted in: NeuroCopter, News - In our research project "NeuroCopter" we study the honeybee brain while the animal is navigating. We attach living honeybees to Read More
Radio Feature on NeuroRobotics (12/14/2014) Posted in: Biorobotics in the Media, General, NeuroCopter, News - The German radio show "IQ - Wissenschaft und Forschung"(Bayern2) broadcasted a full 30-minutes radio feature on NeuroRobotics. The story features Read More
NeuroCopter featured in Tagesspiegel (9/15/2014) Posted in: General, NeuroCopter, Project in the Media - NeuroCopter gets a full-page article in the German newspaper "Tagesspiegel" (August 23rd 2014). It is available online here: Thanks Read More
NeuroCopter featured in TV report on MAVs (7/7/2014) Posted in: General, NeuroCopter, Project in the Media - The German TV show "Elektrischer Reporter" has featured the work of the Biorobotics Lab. Check it out!
Prof. Dr. Martin Nawrot on NDR Info Radio (2/20/2014) Posted in: General, NeuroCopter, Project in the Media - Friday, Feb 21, Martin is going to be on air on NDR Info: "NDR LOGO" : Audio:
KurzweilAI covers NeuroRover! (2/15/2014) Posted in: General, NeuroCopter, Project in the Media - In an article published February 14th, reports on our IEEE/EMBS Neural Enginieering paper.
New photos of NeuroRover (2/14/2014) Posted in: General, NeuroCopter, News - Our exclusive lab photographer Jon took some marvellous shots of NeuroRover, our small tank robot that uses honeybee brain structures to learn Read More
Thursday Feb 6: Prof. Martin Nawrot on Kultur-Radio (2/3/2014) Posted in: Announcement, General, NeuroCopter, Project in the Media - On Thursday, February 6th, Martin was speaking on RBB's Kulturradio about the NeuroRover and NeuroRobotics in general. Tune in: Kulturradio Read More
Conditioned behavior in a robot controlled by a spiking neural network (2/3/2014) Posted in: General, NeuroCopter, New Paper - In a related project "NeuroRover", we use spiking neural networks to control small robots. The robot's brain, inspired by neural Read More