Winged Victory: Fly-Size Wing Flapper Lifts Off

The hope is to build robotic flies that could work in any situation in which it would be better or safer to send them instead of humans

3 min read

Despite the fact that we’d likely drown in our own waste if it weren’t for their ­enormous fondness for eating our ­garbage and excrement, flies don’t get any respect. Not from most of us ­anyway, who see only pests and disease vectors as we swat with abandon whenever they’re around.

But there are a few good scientists and engineers who reach for their notebooks and video cameras instead, amazed and astounded by flies’ aeronautic wizardry. With a brain that’s home to several hundred thousand neurons—we each house 100 billion in ours—a fly can duck, dive, hover, rotate, and fly with easy accuracy and endurance, despite having a lousy field of vision and a carb-based Dumpster diet for fuel.

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Top Tech 2022: A Special Report

Preview two dozen exciting technical developments that are in the pipeline for the coming year

1 min read
Photo of the lower part of a rocket in an engineering bay.

NASA’s Space Launch System will carry Orion to the moon.

Frank Michaux/NASA

At the start of each year, IEEE Spectrum attempts to predict the future. It can be tricky, but we do our best, filling the January issue with a couple of dozen reports, short and long, about developments the editors expect to make news in the coming year.

This isn’t hard to do when the project has been in the works for a long time and is progressing on schedule—the coming first flight of NASA’s Space Launch System, for example. For other stories, we must go farther out on a limb. A case in point: the description of a hardware wallet for Bitcoin that the company formerly known as Square (which recently changed its name to Block) is developing but won’t officially comment on. One thing we can predict with confidence, though, is that Spectrum readers, familiar with the vicissitudes of technical development work, will understand if some of these projects don’t, in fact, pan out. That’s still okay.

Engineering, like life, is as much about the journey as the destination.

See all stories from our Top Tech 2022 Special Report

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