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 ")

Pneumatic Micro-Tentacles Kidnapping Ants
'Long, flexible, glittering tentacles...'- H.G. Wells, 1898.

Robot Swarms Improve Culture By Forgetting
'My mind was filled to the splitting point...' - Roger Zelazny, 1976.

This Robot Swordmaster: Yaskawa Bushido Project
'The instrument of prisms and target could not think, feel caution or remorse. And it carried a real blade.'- Frank Herbert, 1965.

What Science Fiction Inspires Russia's New Robot?
Russian science fiction fans had their own inspirations.

 

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

Storing 1 Zettabyte In 10 Grams
'It is theoretically possible to have a matrix in which each individual molecule has a meaning...'

Laser-Powered Spacecraft To Explore The Solar System
'Whoever launched it fired a laser cannon... for about forty-five years, so the intruder would have a beam to travel on...'

Skin Chair For That 'Sitting On A Fat Guy' Feeling
'The semi-sentient artifact glided to a position behind McKie...'

Pneumatic Micro-Tentacles Kidnapping Ants
'Long, flexible, glittering tentacles...'

Bee Narcs To Perform Drug 'Stings'
'Time for a replacement of both Behren and his dipterous insect...'

3D Printed Spherical Flying Machine
'Gold dots against blue, basketball-sized, twelve feet up....'

Airbus E-Fan All-Electric Plane Now Ready
I couldn't believe it, either.

Robot Swarms Improve Culture By Forgetting
'My mind was filled to the splitting point...'

Melomics Avant Garde Computer Musician
'Rollo sat at the keyboard, prim, inhuman, rigid, twin lenses focused somewhere off into the shadows...'

Samsung's Transparent Display Finally As Big As HG Wells'
Wells also figured out that 16x9 is the shape to have.

Nanotech Used To Create Custom Water Filters In Tanzania
'People started out squeamish about Clearsacs...'

This Robot Swordmaster: Yaskawa Bushido Project
'The instrument of prisms and target could not think, feel caution or remorse. And it carried a real blade.'

Thync Mood-Changing Wearable Device
'Very gently, hypnotically, the electronic pulses throbbed in the frontal lobes of his brain.'

What Science Fiction Inspires Russia's New Robot?
Russian science fiction fans had their own inspirations.

LightSail Solar Sail Deploys
'This was the first time any solar yacht had ever attained it...'

Living Concrete Repairs Itself
Science fiction fans were given this idea in 1951.

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.