Robotic Fly Micro Air Vehicle

A robotic fly is fluttering upward at Harvard University this week. Robert Wood, MIT engineering professor, is working with DARPA to bring life-size robot flies into being.

(Robot Fly)

The robotic fly weighs just sixty milligrams and has a wingspan of just three centimeters. In current testing, the fly flutters upward along a wire (guidance systems are still in development).

(Robotic insect air force in the palm of your hand)

The goal of the Harvard Micro Air Vehicle project is to create autonomous vehicles capable of sustained flight on a scale of less than 10 grams and 10 centimeters in size. Biomimetic research tries to recreate insect capabilities with er-micromachined composite materials to yield stiff and lightweight links, articulated joints, and rigid exoskeletons and airframes.

Dr. Wood hopes that the team's piezoelectric actuators and flexible thorax structures will be able to provide the needed power density and wing stroke. Carbon fiber-reinforced wings provide strength and rigidity.

DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) is determined to have little steerable insects one way or another. They are also trying to put reliable bio-electromechanical systems onto (or even into) real, living insects to steer them (see Hybrid Insect MEMS Sought By DARPA For Bug Army).

Their ultimate goal seems the same as that of the protagonist in The Scarab, a 1936 science fiction story by Raymond Z. Gallun. In the story, a tiny robotic insect is used as a secret spy device - literally a fly on the wall:

...the Scarab buzzed into the great workroom as any intruding insect might, and sought the security of a shadowed corner. There it studied its surroundings, transmitting to its manipulator, far away now, all that it heard through its ear microphones and saw with its minute vision tubes.
(Read more about the scarab flying insect robot)

Via Technology Review and MIT.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 7/20/2007)

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