RoboBee Takes Off

Advancement in miniature robotics and power sources


The demonstration of the first controlled flight of an insect-sized robot is the culmination of more than a decade's work, led by researchers at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard.

The tiny robot flaps its wings with piezoelectric actuators - strips of ceramic that expand and contract when an electric field is applied. Thin hinges of plastic embedded within the carbon fiber body frame serve as joints, and a delicately balanced control system commands the rotational motions in the flapping-wing robot, with each wing controlled independently in real-time.

The robotic insects also take advantage of an ingenious pop-up manufacturing technique that was developed by Wood's team in 2011. Sheets of various laser-cut materials are layered and sandwiched together into a thin, flat plate that folds up like a child's pop-up book into the complete electromechanical structure.

The quick, step-by-step process replaces what used to be a painstaking manual art and allows Wood's team to use more robust materials in new combinations, while improving the overall precision of each device.

We can think of RoboBees flying around in the substation looking for problems in areas that cannot be reached without taking an outage. Due to their small size, that will not be a problem anymore.
For more information and videos visit: wyss.harvard.edu/viewpressrelease/110/

 

 

 

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