Behold the Flying Robots

Slideshow: Whether as rescue robot or flying spy, this micro-aerial vehicle could change how we look at the common housefly

Photo: Randi Silberman

Insects are capable of executing stunning aerial feats, including flying upside down, hovering and landing on walls and ceilings. Perhaps for this reason alone, they have inspired a whole suite of flying machines that share key properties with their arthropod forebears. But these robotic fliers are just beginning to conquer flight on the scale of insects. In March 2007, Robert Wood’s microrobotic fly proved it could generate enough thrust to lift off the ground on its own, becoming the first insect-size robot to fly.

For more about how the robot fly works, read the article Fly, Robot Fly

Photo: University of California, Berkeley

Roboflyis the first robotic model of insect flight, created by Michael Dickinson, a bioengineering professor now at Caltech. Dickinson built a scaled version of a fly’s wings—with a wingspan of 60 centimeters—and immersed it in two tons of mineral oil to generate flow patterns similar to those experienced by a fly’s wings flapping through air.

For more about how the robot fly works, read the article Fly, Robot Fly

Photo: Case Western Reserve University

The Morphing Micro Air and Land Vehicle, the product of a collaboration between Case Western Reserve University, the Naval Postgraduate School, and the University of Florida, foregoes insect scale and flapping flight. The robot must be manually launched, but after landing it can fold its wings to crawl through tight spaces and navigate on land. Its design is based on bat wings and a cockroach’s locomotion.

For more about how the robot fly works, read the article Fly, Robot Fly

Photo: Antoine Beeler/EPFL

This bio-inspired microflyerfrom Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne weighs a wispy 10 grams and can fly autonomously once it is launched. It is equipped with CMOS cameras, rate gyros for detecting orientation, and a wind-speed sensor, as well as an 8-bit microcontroller and a Bluetooth radio module.

For more about how the robot fly works, read the article Fly, Robot Fly

Photo: Ron Fearing/University of California, Berkeley

Spanning 25 millimeters from wingtip to wingtip, this micromechanical flying insect from the Biomimetic Millisystems Lab at the University of California, Berkeley, uses piezoelectric actuators and a flexible thorax to mimic the wing strokes of true flies.

For more about how the robot fly works, read the article Fly, Robot Fly

Photo: Sarah Bergbreiter

Sometimes flying is not enough—a jumping microrobotfrom the University of Maryland is designed to easily navigate obstacles and potentially latch onto larger mobile hosts. The robot prototype shown here has solar cells and a small microcontroller attached.

For more about how the robot fly works, read the article Fly, Robot Fly

Photo: Georgia Institute of Technology/Meeks

Known as the entomopter, this flying and crawling insectlike robot invented at the Georgia Tech Research Institute has flapping wings powered by a chemical energy source. According to the project’s Web site, NASA Research Centers are considering the insect-inspired robot for use in exploring Mars.

For more about how the robot fly works, read the article Fly, Robot Fly

Photo: Jaap Oldenkamp

This microaerial vehicle from Delft University of Technology weighs 16 grams, including onboard cameras, and fits into a sphere with a radius of 30 centimeters. The DelFly II is equipped with a 1.6-gram brushless dc motor and a lithium-ion battery that can power 15 minutes of horizontal flight or 8 minutes of hovering while also transmitting a live video stream.

For more about how the robot fly works, read the article Fly, Robot Fly

Photo: Floris van Breugel

This composite image shows the top view of an ornithopterfrom Cornell University under a strobe light during normal flapping. Each wing of this hummingbird- and dragonfly-inspired robot is traced through a forward stroke and a back stroke, with the wings switching direction in between and continuously changing their angle of attack.

For more about how the robot fly works, read the article Fly, Robot Fly

Photo: Interactive Toy Concepts

The iFly Vamp, from Interactive Toy Concepts, is a remote-controlled ornithopter with flapping wings and a foam body. The toy's aerial prowess derives in part from its half-bat, half-insect form.

For more about how the robot fly works, read the article Fly, Robot Fly

Advertisement
Advertisement