RoboBee

RoboBee

Inspired by the biology of a bee, RoboBees are autonomously flying micro bots designed for agriculture, search and rescue, surveillance, weather and environmental monitoring, and much more. These robots can perform a myriad of roles and are capable of either flight, sticking to walls, or performing underwater functions to name a few. The latest-generation of RoboBees can do most, if not all, of the roles as well as all of the capabilities mentioned but are 1000 times lighter compared to the previous generations thanks to new breakthroughs in manufacturing, materials, and design from Harvad's laboratory. This technology was developed by a team of scientists from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) together with Wyss institute for Biologically-Inspired Engineering at Harvard. One of the features of the latest-generation RoboBee is the ability to not only fly, but also dive into water, swim and propel itself back out of water, and then safely landing back to land and continue flying. This is due to the new floating devices that are integrated into the multipurpose micro robot for it to stabilize on the water's surface before an internal combustion system ignites to propel it into the air. And according to Yufen Chen, a graduate of Microrobotics and the first author of the conducted research, "This is the first microrobot capable of repeatedly moving in and through complex environments. We designed new mechanisms that allow the vehicle to directly transition from water to air, something that is beyond what nature can achieve in the insect world. "Unfortunately, designing a robot of this size has its challenges. One is that water is 1,000 times denser than air. Another obstacle is that the water's surface tension is more than 10 times the weight of the micro robot. Diving in the water is one thing and getting out is another. To solve these problems, researchers combined theoretical modeling and experimental data to determine the most efficient combination of wing size and flapping rate which allowed the bee to operate in both air and water. The micro robot is also retrofitted with four buoyant outriggers to help the robot float and a central gas collection chamber that converts water into oxyhydrogen, a combustible gas fuel. The gas collected increases the micro robot's buoyancy, effectively pushing the device out of the water just enough so that the wings are exposed while the integrated buoyant outriggers help keep the robot balanced on the water's surface. From there, a tiny novel sparker inside the chamber ignites the gas, propelling the robot out of the water and since the device is designed to passively designed to stabilize in the air, it will always land on its feet. However, the RoboBee cannot yet fly immediately upon propulsion due to the lack of on board sensors as well as a motion-tracking system which the research team hopes to change in their future research. Rober Wood, a Charles River Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard, a Core Fculty Member of the Wyss Institute, and senior authoer of the paper said that "The RoboBee represent a platform where forces are different than what we, at human-scale are used to experiencing. While flying the robot feels as if it is treading water; while swimming it feels like it is sorrounded by molasses. The force from surface tension feels like an impenetrable wall. These small robots give us the opportunity to explore these non-intuitive phenomena in a very rich way. Want to know more about this awesome device? Then follow these links: Article and Video

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