Scientists in the US have created a robot the size of a fly that is able to perform the agile manoeuvres of the ubiquitous insects.
This “robo-fly”, built from carbon fibre, weighs a fraction of a gram and has super-fast electronic “muscles” to power its wings. Its Harvard University developers say tiny robots like theirs may eventually be used in rescue operations. It could, for example, navigate through tiny spaces in collapsed buildings. The development is reported in the journal Science.
Lead researcher Kevin Ma from Harvard University says his team has made the world’s smallest flying robot. It also has the fly-like agility that allows the insects to evade even the swiftest of human efforts to swat them. This comes largely from very precise wing movements.
By constantly adjusting the effect of lift and thrust acting on its body at an incredibly high speed, the insect and the robot’s flapping wings enable it to hover almost motionless in the air or perform sudden evasive manoeuvres.
And just like a real fly, the robot’s thin, flexible wings beat approximately 120 times every second. The researchers achieved this wing speed with special piezoelectric material, which contracts every time a voltage is applied to it.
By very rapidly switching the voltage on and off, the scientists were able to make this material behave like just like the tiny muscles that makes a fly’s wings beat so fast. [via]