Flight of the RoboBee

100 years after Wright Brothers’ first flight, history repeats itself on a miniature scale. Researchers(1) at Harvard create an agile, insect-sized flying robot that flaps its wings using piezoelectric muscles:

We developed high-power-density piezoelectric flight muscles and a manufacturing methodology capable of rapidly prototyping articulated, flexure-based sub-millimeter mechanisms. We built an 80-milligram, insect-scale, flapping-wing robot modeled loosely on the morphology of flies. Using a modular approach to flight control that relies on limited information about the robot’s dynamics, we demonstrated tethered but unconstrained stable hovering and basic controlled flight maneuvers

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(1) Kevin Y. Ma, Pakpong Chirarattananon, Sawyer B. Fuller, Robert J. Wood, “Controlled Flight of a Biologically Inspired, Insect-Scale Robot”, Science 340 no. 6132 pp. 603-607, May 2013

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