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Harvard Researchers Create Insect-Sized Robots

A decade-long research project at the Harvard robotics laboratory has culminated in the flight of an insect-sized flying robot.

The tiny robot, dubbed RoboBee, weighs less than a tenth of a gram and measures half the length of a paperclip, and is demonstrating the brave new world of miniature robotics and control.

According to the Harvard Gazette, the RoboBee was inspired by the biology of a fly, and has two extremely thin wings that can flap 120 times per second, driven by a pair of tiny piezoelectric actuators.

The body of the bot is made of carbon fiber, with tiny plastic hinges for joints, and it’s said that the control system that governs the RoboBee is capable of controlling each wing independently, in real-time.

robobeesscreencapture

You may wonder what the point is to building such a tiny robotic device, but as with most innovations, sometimes the practical applications come later:

“Applications of the RoboBee project could include distributed environmental monitoring, search-and-rescue operations, or assistance with crop pollination, but the materials, fabrication techniques, and components that emerge along the way might prove to be even more significant.” – Harvard

According to the RoboBees Project, possible uses for such tiny robots include autonomously pollinating a field of crops, high-resolution weather and climate mapping, traffic monitoring, exploring hazardous environments, or search and rescue efforts. The real power in these tiny robots comes when they are linked together into a swarm of them, which would mimic the collective behavior and intelligence found in bee colonies.

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