A winged robot the size of a fly has taken its first flight, courtesy of the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. After more than a decade, engineers at Harvard University have finally finished the first model of the “RoboBee” — the world’s smallest flying robotic insect. Here’s what you should know about this breakthrough in mini-aviation.
1. Its Wings Flap 120 Times a Second
The 80-milligram device has a pair of thin stripped wings that can flap 120 times a second. According to the Science Journal, the RoboBee can hover over short distances, take off, and change direction while being connected to a wire. In only six months, engineers were able to construct up to 20 prototypes of the little flying machine.
2. It’s Still a Work in Progress
Researchers believe that the prototype still has some improvements to be made, which include giving it a small “brain” to function and a battery small enough for RoboBee to fly in the air without connection to a power source. Researcher Kevin Mas said, “Large robots can run on electromagnetic motors, but at this small scale you have to come up with an alternative, and there wasn’t one.”
3. RoboBee Has a Future in Surveillance
With the RoboBee still in development, scientists hope that it can be used for important purposes like surveillance, search and rescue operations, and even monitoring many different environments. With an innovation like this, researchers believe that RoboBee can open more doors for techhology. Project leader Professor Robert Wood explains that, “This project provides a common motivation for scientists and engineers across the university to build smaller batteries, to design more efficient control systems, and to create stronger, more lightweight materials.”
4. It Was Built to Discover the Anatomy of Flies
Harvard University’s robotic experiment was meant for engineers to discover the capabilities of a fly. By adhering together thin layers of composite materials, engineers were able to build the engine, muscles, thorax, skeleton and wings. Just like a real fly, the wings move by themselves and can flap and rotate. “Their capabilities exceed what we can do with our robot, so we would like to understand their biology better and apply it to our own work,” team member Dr. Sawyer Fuller said.
5. You Can See it in Action
If any of this interests you, check out the little robotic insect as it takes its first flight:
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