Tiny Robotic Insect Takes Flight

Tiny Robotic Insect Takes Flight

Harvard engineers have built a flying insect the size of a coin.

A flying robot about the size of a U.S. Quarter has taken flight in the culmination of a decade long quest. The tiny robot, made of advanced ceramics and tiny actuators with submillimeter scale parts, is colloquially called the RoboBee. Worth noting: It's inspired by, and works more like, fly anatomy. "This is what I have been trying to do for literally the last 12 years," said Robert J. Wood, the Harvard professor heading up the team, "It's really only because of this lab's recent breakthroughs in manufacturing, materials, and design that we have even been able to try this. And it just worked, spectacularly well." Much of the robot's design had to be completely designed from the groud up - there just weren't off-the-shelf parts for something this small. "We had to develop solutions from scratch, for everything," said Wood.

The robot's tiny "flight muscles" are actually Piezoelectric actuators, little strips of ceramic that, when trigged with an electric field, expand and contract. The tiny frame is carbon fiber, and incredibly small plastic hinges embedded in that frame serve as joints. Each wing is controlled independently in real time - to ensure that the robot's rotation doesn't get out of hand. The team can also prototype more rapidly than ever, because they've pioneered a layered, laser cut manufacturing technique that allows them to fold the robot together out of a sheet like a pop up book. Overall, the tiny robot packs a ton of innovation into a tiny space, and there's more to come. RoboBee's temporary limitation is power - it trails a little power cord everwhere it goes, so new batteries are in order.

Small, dense batteries are just one part of the puzzle, though. Teams across the university are working on the other pieces of RoboBee - tiny robot brains, swarm programming, and research into insect behavior. The end goal is a swarm of cooperative, independent flying bugs that can relay video or pictures. Ideally, those bugs could be used to track climate data or search for missing persons.

Source: Harvard

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Horray! Now they can spy on us even more! Remind me to buy a flyswatter!

Seriously though, this is some pretty cool tech.

That is some nice tech right there.

Gearhead mk2:
Horray! Now they can spy on us even more! Remind me to buy a flyswatter!

Seriously though, this is some pretty cool tech.

If anything they'll lose too many of these things to spiders for them to be an effective surveillance technique. Our eight legged friends have our back on this one :P

Ah, modern technology developments. Conspiracy theoriests have never had it that easy before...

No new "technology" here; already in use by the UK Army:

http://news.sky.com/story/1047004/mini-drones-army-deploys-tiny-helicopters

They've even got the battery "problem" solved!

Gearhead mk2:
Horray! Now they can spy on us even more! Remind me to buy a flyswatter!

Seriously though, this is some pretty cool tech.

Given how the video shows it with a wire coming out of it the whole time I doubt we'd have much to worry about.

NothingNewHere:
No new "technology" here; already in use by the UK Army:

http://news.sky.com/story/1047004/mini-drones-army-deploys-tiny-helicopters

They've even got the battery "problem" solved!

There are some key differences at work here - specifically, that those mini helicopters are the size of twenty or so of these things. Those little copters can be measured in centimeters - these RoboBees are measured on the submillimeter scale.

Additionally, the RoboBees use insect flight, very differently maneuverable and capable of far more impressive aerobatics than helicopter flight.

Oh, for the love of god, don't you see what they're doing? First, the one bee, then the swarm, and then we're all covered in

BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES!!!!

(NOTE: This is an unlikely scenario.)

If all it does is hover and move side to side, I don't think there's much to worry about.

Yeah. "Search for missing persons." Right.

A little bit of ricin or cyanide, a hypodermic stinger and a gargantuan swarm of cheaply made flying bees = excellent warfare tech.

I hope they develop a way for it to land that isn't quite so... pathetic.

Impressive but completely useless. The current pace of battery technology means this robot will remain tethered for the foreseeable future (for anything other than a 3 minute or less flight which would make it an expensive toy). If they looked at alternatives like miniaturized fuel cell or something it might be able to fly freely in only 10 years or so.

FalloutJack:
Oh, for the love of god, don't you see what they're doing? First, the one bee, then the swarm, and then we're all covered in

BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES!!!!

(NOTE: This is an unlikely scenario.)

image

Seriously though, very interesting tech, if a little disturbing to think about.

Quaxar:
Ah, modern technology developments. Conspiracy theoriests have never had it that easy before...

You're not kidding. People with imagination could really put these things to terrifying usage, and your average Alex Jones-type character is going to be losing sleep over this.

*takes a deep breath*

Ah, I love the smell of science in the morning.

Which would you prefer, an apocalypse where bugs inherit the Earth, or an apocalypse where robots inherit the Earth?

image

So we have normal bees.
and now Robot bees...
We have a flyswatter
Someone already has a patent on a robot-insect-swatter?

FalloutJack:
Oh, for the love of god, don't you see what they're doing? First, the one bee, then the swarm, and then we're all covered in

BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES!!!!

(NOTE: This is an unlikely scenario.)

Bees?
My god!
image
...Harvard?
So it's snooty robo bees?

Meh, it's probably chock full of bugs...
It's impressive though, the more robots in our future the better.

FalloutJack:
Oh, for the love of god, don't you see what they're doing? First, the one bee, then the swarm, and then we're all covered in

BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES!!!!

image

BEES! BEES FOR EVEEEEERRYYYYYBODDYYYYYYYYY!

There's a bee for you! And for you! And a swarm for you!

Nobody is safe.

Awesome!

Now that the hard work is done all there is left is the easy job of miniaturizing weapons and its purpose will be complete.

My, if you think the conspiracy theorists going apey about the US government utilizing drones to take over the government they already control are bad now, Just wait till there are hordes of these things floating around loaded up with Anthrax spritzers, EMP emitters, surveillance remotes, stun darts and micro hellfire missiles.

King of Asgaard:
Meh, it's probably chock full of bugs...
It's impressive though, the more robots in our future the better.

I dunno about all that.

Well I guess, perhaps. The humans we got running around causing trouble and making everyone miserable the better I suppose. Yes, I think I can get behind that.

Edit: Captcha, come on now, you can NOT be serious.... "The bees knees"

Spyroach hardest hit.

image

Anybody freaked out by this whole business with drones and micro-technology, do yourselves a favor, do NOT read Kill Decision. Anybody who likes well-written techno-thrillers, dive in.

I'm envisioning a swarm of these things attacking a person. The camera cuts away to the persons horrified friends before cutting back to a skeleton stripped bare.

We should all know by now that this tech is going to be used first and foremost to spy on the people of America. The military (and the dirtbag govt) has a hardon for spying on anyone and everyone it seems.

One of these RoboBees crawled in my mouth at the beginning of The Secret World.

And then I developed magical powers and chased Cthulu thingies across the (secret) world for the Illuminati!

Sign me up!

And definitely everyone has the right idea with assassin bees. Reminds me of the assassin drone that went after Paul Artreides at the beginning of Dune.

 

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