The last time robotic dragonflies of this size roamed the Earth, dinosaurs were still about 100 million years down the line. Insects can't get this big anymore (there isn't enough oxygen in the air to keep them going anymore), but that's why we have robots: to resurrect freakishly large bugs and make them do our bidding.
As far as I know, Festo is a company that exists solely to invent some kind of amazing bio-inspired robot out of nowhere. They've just announced BionicOpter (get it?), a scarily impressive robotic dragonfly:
With a wingspan of 70 cm and a body length of 48 cm, the model dragonfly weighs just 175 grams. The wings consist of a carbonfibre frame and a thin foil covering. The structure is made of flexible polyamide and terpolymer. The small ribcage houses the battery, nine servo motors and a high-performance ARM microcontroller, all installed in the smallest of spaces just like the sensors and wireless modules.
Up and down, forwards, backwards and to the side: the flapping wing design of the BionicOpter enables it to fly in all directions in space and hover in mid-air just like a helicopter. Unlike a helicopter, however, the dragonfly does not need to tilt forwards to generate forward thrust. This means that it can fly horizontally as well as float like a glider. Its lightweight design means it is able to start autonomously.
The point of this thing is to showcase Festo's miniaturization and integration automation, but whatever, just put them in Toys "R" Us already. I WANT ONE.
[ Festo ]
Star Trek Into Darkness is coming out soon enough that Paramount is starting to find creative ways to promote it, and here's one that we can appreciate: it's a swarm of quadrotors forming a Star Trek symbol high over London at night.
Ascending Technologies has a making-of video; it's a little bit, you know, in German, but it's worth watching if you like quadrotors and swarms and stuff.
Where can a 2-ton turbo diesel hexapod walking machine go? Anywhere it freakin' wants:
After four years intensive R&D, inspiration, design and build, Micromagic Systems is proud to unveil Mantis: the biggest, all-terrain operational hexapod robot in the world.
This 2.2-litre turbo diesel-powered, British-designed and -built walking machine can be piloted or remote WiFi-controlled, stands 2.8 meters high with a 5 meter working envelope and weighing in at just under 2 tons.
Mantis was first unveiled last year, of course, but this video is new and dramatic enough that we couldn't pass it up.
[ Mantis ]
Suitable Technologies has a bunch of Beams wandering around their offices, and last Friday, they all got together for a game of 3v3 telepresence soccer:
This was all very impromptu, and Suitable has now dropped everything and devoted their entire company to coming up ways to improve the game. Or at least, I assume that's what they're doing.
Virginia Tech's National Science Foundation Center for Energy Harvesting Materials and Systems has been developing this gigantic robotic
sea jelly named Cyro:
Why does the universe need a robotic sea jelly? What a silly question! The appeal is that sea jellies are able to travel all over the oceans with minimal sensors and low-power consumption, both features that would be quite useful in a long-duration, autonomous, seagoing robot.
Oh, and once again, we feel obligated to point out that the correct term is "sea jelly," since "jellyfish" implies that they're fish, which they aren't.
Ah yes, just exactly what everybody needs in their swimming pool:
[ ACM-R5 ]
We've posted a couple videos of Nao driving cars around, and here's the story behind it:
[ NaoCar ]
UAVs have been big news for the last five years or so, but NASA's been in the game for four decades. This video takes a look at what the agency has been working on for all these years, and there are some surprises in here, like a UAV with wings that inflate mid-flight.
Let's wrap up the week with a nice relaxing installment of Team Blacksheep's quadrotor shenanigans in Rio.
[ Team BlackSheep ]
Evan Ackerman is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Since 2007, he has written over 6,000 articles on robotics and technology. He has a degree in Martian geology and is excellent at playing bagpipes.