Latest in Tomorrow

Image credit: The Harvard MicroRobotics Lab/Harvard SEAS

Robot bees can crash into walls without taking damage

Soft muscles prevent the bots from taking a bruising.
178 Shares
Share
Tweet
Share
Save

Sponsored Links

The Harvard MicroRobotics Lab/Harvard SEAS

Tiny robotic fliers aren't exactly durable at present, but they may be tough critters before long. Harvard researchers have developed a RoboBee that uses soft, artificial muscles (really, actuators) to fly without taking damage. The robot can smack into walls, crash-land or even collide with fellow 'bees' without getting hurt. Soft-muscle fliers have existed before, but this is the first with enough power density and control to hover -- that is, it's not just flying wildly.

The trick was to improve the power density through refined materials. The actuators are made with dielectric elastomers that deform under an electric field and have good insulating properties. Their upgraded electrode conductivity helps them operate at the same 500Hz as the stiff actuators found on other bots this size. They're easy to assemble and replace, too, so you could scale up with more wings and actuators to handle more complex tasks. It took a model with four actuators and eight wings to hover in a controlled manner.

The technology still isn't very efficient compared to conventional robots. Researchers hope to improve the technology, though, and they'd eventually like to sell it. If they do, there are numerous potential uses. Harvard imagines these robots being useful for search-and-rescue missions, where a robot might have to navigate dangerous rubble looking for survivors.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Comment
Comments
Share
178 Shares
Share
Tweet
Share
Save

Popular on Engadget

The 2019 Engadget Holiday Gift Guide

The 2019 Engadget Holiday Gift Guide

View
Facebook is fixing a bug that turned on phone cameras

Facebook is fixing a bug that turned on phone cameras

View
Iowa asked researchers to break into a courthouse, then it arrested them

Iowa asked researchers to break into a courthouse, then it arrested them

View
'Star Wars' and 'The Mandalorian' make Disney+ worth it

'Star Wars' and 'The Mandalorian' make Disney+ worth it

View
'Star Wars' on Disney+ reignites the Han-Greedo fan drama

'Star Wars' on Disney+ reignites the Han-Greedo fan drama

View

From around the web

Page 1Page 1ear iconeye iconFill 23text filevr