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World's smallest flying robot built

usa ubiquitous insects robo-fly evasive manoeuvres piezoelectric

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#1 Hum

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Posted 02 May 2013 - 22:38

Scientists in the US have created a robot the size of a fly that is able to perform the agile manoeuvres of the ubiquitous insects.

This "robo-fly", built from carbon fibre, weighs a fraction of a gram and has super-fast electronic "muscles" to power its wings.

Its Harvard University developers say tiny robots like theirs may eventually be used in rescue operations.

It could, for example, navigate through tiny spaces in collapsed buildings.

The development is reported in the journal Science.

Dr Kevin Ma from Harvard University and his team, led by Dr Robert Wood, say they have made the world's smallest flying robot.

It also has the fly-like agility that allows the insects to evade even the swiftest of human efforts to swat them.

This comes largely from very precise wing movements.

By constantly adjusting the effect of lift and thrust acting on its body at an incredibly high speed, the insect's (and the robot's) wings enable it to hover, or to perform sudden evasive manoeuvres.

And just like a real fly, the robot's thin, flexible wings beat approximately 120 times every second.

The researchers achieved this wing speed with special substance called piezoelectric material, which contracts every time a voltage is applied to it.

By very rapidly switching the voltage on and off, the scientists were able to make this material behave like just like the tiny muscles that makes a fly's wings beat so fast.

"We get it to contract and relax, like biological muscle," said Dr Ma.

The main goal of this research was to understand how insect flight works, rather than to build a useful robot.

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#2 DocM

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Posted 02 May 2013 - 23:03

Future drone wars: robo-fly swarm enters bad guy hideout, disguised as local insects. One lands on the leaders head and goes boom with a directed shaped charge. No collateral damage.

#3 OP Hum

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Posted 02 May 2013 - 23:04

Wonder if RAID will kill it ...

#4 wrack

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Posted 02 May 2013 - 23:15

RAID may not but WD40 just might!

#5 Growled

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Posted 02 May 2013 - 23:41

It could, for example, navigate through tiny spaces in collapsed buildings.


Yeah, on spy missions.

#6 tuckeratlarge

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 21:17


World's smallest flying robot built - that you and I are allowed to see, as in not counting all the military stuff they've had for years.


#7 M_Lyons10

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 21:40

Rescue Operations? I'd say more likely "Spy Operations"... lol

#8 FloatingFatMan

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Posted 04 May 2013 - 17:54

Spy operations? HAHAHA!!

You guys are funny. :p

Seriously, where are they gonna stick the battery for more than 1 or 2 minutes flight time? Battery tech is nowhere near where it needs to be for these things to actually be used without a tether, and they can't be used with much of a tether either as they won't be powerful enough to lift more than a short piece of wire.

#9 DocM

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Posted 04 May 2013 - 20:26

After researching a bit, the current draw is 19 milliwatts.

One power possibility is ambient RF harvesting - after being dropped by drones the bugs use a micro li-po charge to position themselves so ambient RF can be harvested, recharging the li-pos. It sits on the roof or power line charging, then when fully topped off it flies in the window and does the mission.

That could be to just position itself where it can listen and harvest more power, say behind a TV, or just to harvest power until night when it can detonate while parked on someones temple. Neither requires much endurance.

And before you giggle, amall machine RF harvesting is a big topic at several companies and the DoD.

#10 Crisp

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Posted 04 May 2013 - 21:43

Best defense, a desk fan.

#11 OP Hum

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Posted 10 May 2013 - 16:03

^ How about an annoyed cat ... ?