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 ")

M-Blocks 2.0 Self-Assembling Robots
'Faster the cubes moved...' - Abraham Merritt, 1920.

Digit V2 Bipedal Robot From Agility Robotics
Oh, and now I suppose someone will develop the robotic porch pirate.

Hail SmartCan! Your Trash Bin Takes Itself Out
'...a waste can twenty feet away stirred into life.' - Harry Harrison, 1959.

Robot Tuna Swims As Fast As Nature's Tuna
'With one fluid motion, it surged forward, plunged, and was gone.' - Michael Swanwick, 2002.

 

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

Extremophile Microbe Loves Space Rocks
'... designed for rooting in the metal make-up of the asteroids for vital elements.'

Magic Mushroom Nose Spray From Silo Wellness
'I don't need help... that's not my diagnosis!'

CAV-X Supercavitating Ammo Deadly Underwater
'...in the midst of this fluid, which is very dense compared with the atmosphere, shots could not go far.'

Space Domes Over-rated? Science Fiction Authors Have Answers
'This was to be roofed over, sealed, and an atmosphere provided...'

Injectable Magnetic Fluid Slows Bleeding, Aids Magneto
'There's something different about you.'

Autonomous Wheelchairs Improve Airport Mobility
'Noiselessly, on rubber-tired wheels, they journeyed down the long aisles...'

HVSD, Kitty Hawk's Electric Plane
Very quiet commuter plane offers VTOL service.

Frictionless Toilet Could Save 140 Billion Liters Of Water
'The bowl was a frictionless surface...'

Viisights AI Hones Video Surveillance
'The math boys worked it out...'

Cybertruck The Solar-Powered Steel Tortoise
'It drew its power from... sunpower screens on its low curved roof.'

Road Noise Charges Electric Cars With Peugeot Piezoelectric Billboard
''... major cities of Earth have free electrical power conveniently processed from their own noise.'

Unsinkable Metal Latest Gates Obsession
'A metal... light as cork.'

M-Blocks 2.0 Self-Assembling Robots
'Faster the cubes moved...'

NASA 'Broomstick' Recalls SciFi Ideas
'The appearance was enough like a giant witch's broom to justify the nickname.'

Orbital Display's Low Earth Orbit Advertisements
'A vast circle of scarlet stars came up into the greenish desert dusk.'

Neuromorphic Computing Hardare
'He had constructed an organ, a brain, of metal, entirely inorganic and lifeless...'

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.