When you think of robot insects, the creepiness grows. But there’s more than meets the eye, and even though seeing a robotic fly hovering near you, it’s in the name of science! Robotics, to be more precise…
The Magic Behind the RoboFly
Robots are increasingly popular, but small robotic drones not so much. That’s because they’re quite difficult to make them fly. To fly, a robotic insect has to be light and also needs a power source, which is in most cases too heavy to allow the robot to lift off.
However, researchers at the University of Washington found a way around. They transmitted power to the robotic insect via laser. At the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Brisbane, Australia, which takes place on 23 May, the team will present their paper on the RoboFly.
The co-author and assistant professor Sawyer Fuller stated:
“Before now, the concept of wireless insect-sized flying robots was science fiction. Would we ever be able to make them work without needing a wire? Our new wireless RoboFly shows they’re much closer to real life.”
The Tiny Fly Has a ‘Brain’
Co-author Vikram Iyer explains that the robotic insect has a circuit to boost the power it receives from an invisible laser beam. He said that they had added a micro-controller on the circuit, which acts as a brain:
“The micro-controller acts like a real fly’s brain telling wing muscles when to fire. On RoboFly, it tells the wings things like ‘flap hard now’ or ‘don’t flap.'”
At the moment, the RoboFly can only hop for a small period. Soon, it will fly, once the researchers can better control the laser that powers the tiny bug.
Co-author Shyam Gollakota has even bigger plans:
“I’d really like to make one that finds methane leaks. You could buy a suitcase full of them, open it up, and they would fly around your building looking for plumes of gas coming out of leaky pipes.”
And that’s why we said the idea of robotic insects sounds quite creepy…
Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere