Picobug is a cool little robot that can fly! And walk! Finally, like most bugs you know, it can also grab things.
(Picobug mesoscale robot)
This lovechild of a quadrotor and a UC Berkeley’s DASH robot displays agility in both terrestrial and aerial operations. The flying bit is straightforward: most of the robot consists of a 22-gram Dragonfly picoquadrotor with a custom autopilot. Underneath is an eight-footed, symmetrical adaptation of DASH, which has the advantage of making sure that the robot is supported by four feet at all times with minimal deformation. The motor that drives these feet can only get them going forwards or backwards, but the Dragonfly’s rotors can yaw the robot to steer it left and right.
In terms of performance, Picobug can fly with a top speed of 6 m/s, and crawl at up to 0.16 m/s on a flat surface. It weighs a total of 30 grams, which is a whole lot of not much: it’s about a third battery, a third motors and props, and the rest is the crawler, frame, and electronics. The big question is, as always, battery life: how much of a difference does the crawling actually make? The simple answer is that the robot uses 10.6 watts while hovering, and 0.6 watt while crawling, resulting in a flight time of 10 minutes and a crawl time of 45 minutes.
I'll never forget coming across the amazing Scarab flying insect robot in a 1936 issue of Astounding Stories magazine. Raymond Z. Gallun was one of the three most famous authors of the Golden Age of science fiction (or scientifiction); he's fun to read even today.
The Scarab rubbed its hind legs together, as flies will do when at rest. Then, apparently satisfied that it was in condition, it unfolded the coleoptera-like plates over its wings. With a buzz that any uninformed person would have mistaken for that of a beetle, it started out on its journey...
[Having landed,] as it scrambled forward, were weeds and bushes and grass, which, from its miniature point of view, constituted a thick and threatening jungle...
(Read more about the scarab flying insect robot)