Science Articles

HOW ARE INSECTS BEING USED AS MODELS FOR MINIATURE ROBOTS?

Inspired by ocelli of the insects which are the light sensing organs of the insects, the scientists have designed a miniature flying robot

Inspired by ocelli of the insects which are the light sensing organs of the insects, the scientists have designed a miniature flying robot. The designing is said to help the scientists in understanding the role of ocelli in insect flight stabilization.

THE STUDY

In the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, a study was published which reports about the invention of a miniature robot with flying abilities. Robert Wood, along with his team at Microbiotics Lab in Harvard University are the ones responsible for this invention.

The robots have the ability to fly and are insect-sized. They can sit on the ceilings and even stick to it by using electrostatic adhesion. The perching and launching of the robots from the ceilings help them in conserving energy. The project is titled as ‘RoboBee’.

ROBOBEE

The robots have the ability to conserve energy midflight like the bats, bees and birds do. The insect-sized robots weight about 100 milligrams and are 20 millimetres tall with 36 millimetres of wingspan.

The power of the robot body is supplied with the help of thin copper wires that even send signals throughout the body.  The artificial flight muscles make the wings move. In 2013, Robobee had first made its appearance in Science journal.

The ability of the robobee to pause and perch itself for conserving energy is a great deal for the scientists. There are various applications for the small drones which have the basic requirement of making them remain suspense in the air for a long stretch of time but the current microrobots cannot sustain for that long.

Robobee is innovative since it is based on the biomechanics of the flight of the insects. The insects use adhesives or some kind of gripping mechanisms that allow them to stay at a place. Such a thing could not be possibly used for a robot. Hence, came the electrostatic adhesion. An electrostatic landing patch was designed in which the charge could turn on and off. When the charge was turned on, the negatively charged particle made the robot sticks to the positively charged surfaces. The robot is able to perceive the environmental stimulus and react accordingly.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Robobee is one of a kind robot that is the first robot to be built on such a small scale, performing the lift off like an insect. It took more than seven years of research for the insect to materialise. Further research is going on to developing a flight controller which can enable the robot to move in various directions.

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