Drosophila Robotica, The Mechanical Fly

Drosophila robotica is my name for this amazing miniature flying robot created at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard. It's an 80-milligram, insect-scale, flapping-wing robot modeled loosely on the morphology of flies.


(Tiny robotic fly)

Simply scaling down mechanics that work for flight on larger objects wouldn't do. Scaling things down just results in too little force, or it creates a situation where surface interactions between the parts inhibit flight, as things like friction begin to dominate. Rather than taking the traditional route to get something tiny aloft—attaching it to some form of rotary engine—they returned to the fly for inspiration, making a pair of flapping wings.

On the fly, the wings work because the angle they take when moving upwards is different from the one they take when flapping down. The authors set that up so it happened passively; as the wings swept in opposite directions, the hardware at the joint where they met the robot's body forced them to rotate.

To get the wings to beat fast enough, the authors created two "muscles" made from a piezoelectric material, which changes shape when a voltage is applied. These flapped the wings at 120 beats a second. Not only is this rate similar to a fly's, but it also created a resonance in the robot's body that amplified the force of each beat. That resonant frequency was so important that the flight control system never changed it, even when it needed to change the force generated by the wing (to fly up or drop lower, for example). Instead, the force was controlled by changing how far the wing traveled with each beat.

That same approach allowed the researchers to rotate their robot while in flight. By having the left or right side do a stronger beat, the robot would turn.


(Flying robots as tiny as flies)

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.
(Read more about the scarab flying insect robot)

From Science Mag via ArsTechnica.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 5/7/2013)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 3 )

Related News Stories - (" Robotics ")

ibotn Toddler-Care Mini-Robot
'She's not like a machine. She's like a person. A living person.' - Philip K. Dick, 1955.

Writhing Robotic Tentacle Uses Laser To Chop Nuke Hardware
'... long, flexible, glittering tentacles... swinging and rattling about its strange body.' - HG Wells, 1898.

Moley Kitchen Robot Ready By 2018
'...the electric cook was stirring empty nothing in a pan, with a zeal worthy a dozen eggs.' - Elizabeth Bellamy, 1899.

PLEN2 DIY Robot Cleaner Steals Your Heart
'I developed it to clean floors...' - Robert Heinlein, 1956.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

ibotn Toddler-Care Mini-Robot
'She's not like a machine. She's like a person. A living person.'

Nuclear Batteries Based On Diamonds Last Millennia
'they just package it and ship it around to wherever people want it...'

Eighth Sense Emotion-Responsive Cloak
'This sensitivity to mood explains the real popularity of bio-fabrics...'

British Airways To Offer An Ingestible Sensor To Passengers
The modern way to get feedback from passengers.

Unique DNA To Foil Parts Counterfeiters
'... the only molecule, a unique protein amino acid, which could not be duplicated.'

MIT Researchers Predict The Future From Still Photos
'What I have in this camera is not a record of what you did just now but what will go on here in the next half hour...'

Mini Robot Uses 2 mm Surgical Tools
'... surgical tool - blades, tweezers, probes - so fine you could just see them with the naked eye.'

Childhood Dreams Of Space Realized! Space Junk Problem Solved!
'Give the noble daydreams a rest, you preachy rookie. Astronauts are wage slaves like everyone else!'

Writhing Robotic Tentacle Uses Laser To Chop Nuke Hardware
'... long, flexible, glittering tentacles... swinging and rattling about its strange body.'

LBNP Device Not Quite 'Artificial Gravity'
'Joe got out the gravity-simulator harnesses..'

China's XPNAV 1 To Use X-Ray Pulsars For Navigation
'For a hyperspace jump, you need at least four beacons for an accurate fix.'

Artificial Muscle Material Is Self-Healing, Super Stretchy
Battletech!

Google Zero-Shot Translation Gives Star Trek Fans Hope
"This is your opponent!"

Moley Kitchen Robot Ready By 2018
'...the electric cook was stirring empty nothing in a pan, with a zeal worthy a dozen eggs.'

Tricking Cells Into Making Silicon Chips
'Fabricated by genetically engineered metal affinity bacteria...'

AI Lip Reading Better Than Human, Like HAL 9000
Nothing to worry about, until computers control most vital systems.

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.