Robotic Insect

May 10th, 2013 by

Researchers at Harvard have created a robotic insect the size of a paper clip. The microrobot has submillimeter-scale anatomy and two thin wings that flap almost invisibly. It weighs just 80 milligrams. The robot uses piezoelectric actuators to flaps its wings. At these scales, small changes in airflow can have an major effect on flight dynamics, so the control system has to react that much faster to remain stable. 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 robot, with each wing controlled independently in real time. The robot has eight infrared, motion tracking cameras that observe the positions of retroreflective markers allowing it to estimate its position and orientation in space. Position estimates are transmitted to the controller computer, which computes the control signals and sends them to the robot via a wire tether. Each wing can be controlled independently. The robotic insect could be useful in distributed environmental monitoring, search-and-rescue operations, and assistance with crop pollination, for example, but the materials, fabrication techniques, and components that emerge along the way might prove to be even more significant. Next steps will include developing the brain, the colony coordination behavior, the power source, and other subsystems required to make the robotic insects fully autonomous and wireless.


Related Mechanisms, Robotics