|RoboBee created by Harvard|
Harvard University has created the world's smallest flying robot, dubbed RoboBee. It measures 3 cm. and is the smallest device ever made that can fly. By the way, RoboBee was modeled by using the inspiration of a fly to create the wings.
RoboBee actually has wings that beat 120 times per second. As you can see in the picture above, it is about the size of a penny. Each wing on the RoboBee can be controlled separately, and are made using a piezoelectric actuator. A piezoelectric actuator is a ceramic strip that moves when electricity runs across it. As you can imagine, the ceramic strips are very thin and are connected by thin plastic hinges, allowing the wings to move back and forth.
The only catch to RoboBee is that it does not have an onboard power supply, but currently gets electricity via power supply wires, so it is not wireless yet. So while it is the world's smallest flying robot, it is still limited to where it can go at the moment by the wire to the power source. RoboBee can last from 10 to 15 minutes tethered to the power supply before the plastic hinges connected to the wings give out.
Harvard engineers still has several problems that they cannot solve with RoboBee:
- Robobee cannot hold the world's smallest encapsulated microchips, as it is too small (thus the robots cannot have any software to make intelligent choices on its own)
- RoboBee has onboard vision sensors, but the data is relayed to the brain subsystem to be decoded. Harvard is trying to create hardware accelerators to fix this problem.
- There is no power supply onboard (as mentioned earlier). Adding a power supply would add weight, and would require a larger propulsion system (bigger wings).
RoboBee is quite remarkable in that engineers created them by cutting designs from sheets, layered them, and folded them, very much like Origami.
There is already discussion of how RoboBees could be used for covert surveillance. This would be very similar to what we saw with the exploding fireflies seen in G.I. Joe: Retalliation (2013).
A more docile use of RoboBee would be for search and rescue operations.
The video seen below is when the RoboBee took off for the first time.