RoboBee – Harvard University’s perching bee robot derives inspiration from nature
Nature has been the core source of inspiration for sophisticated designs that we humans have invented. Flying has been one nature-inspired craving that has led to many new kind of advents for a long time now. Moritz Alexander Graule, who is currently a PhD student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has developed this tiny little flying robot while he was a Harvard University Microrobotics Lab. RoboBee, as he likes to call it, uses the phenomenon of perching to conserve energy. Just like a bee that weighs about 100mg, this small little robot perches to any surface using electrostatic energy.
RoboBee has an electrode patch with a foam mount to absorb shock which weighs just 13.4mg. Total weight of this robotic flyer is 100mg and when the electrode patch is supplied with a charge it sticks to any surface like leaf, glass, wood etc. The perching mechanism gives this robot more flight time and also the need for smaller battery unit. This is important since the size of RoboBee is so small.
Robert Wood, Charles River Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences at SEAS said:
The use of adhesives that are controllable without complex physical mechanisms, are low power, and can adhere to a large array of surfaces is perfect for robots that are agile yet have limited payload – like the RoboBee.
The little robot is undergoing further development and researchers are looking for a battery unit that can be put on-board. Thus, eliminating the need for a tethered power source. Since RoboBee is so small and weighs so less, it can disturbed by external factors such as someone passing by or a slight gust of wind from the window.
There are more challenges to making a robust, robotic landing system but this experimental result demonstrates a very versatile solution to the problem of keeping flying microrobots operating longer without quickly draining power.
Said, Kevin Ma, a post-doc at SEAS and the Wyss Institute and Co-author of the research.