Engineering can achieve remarkable things, and the RoboBee can fly, swim and, finally, see with the aid of the same kind of technology that will bring us driverless cars.
- RoboBee first took flight in 2007, flapping its wings at a rate of 120 times per second
- The researchers worked on ‘teaching it’ how to swim, by slowing down the patterns of its wings
- They’re now planning to offer it vision, through micro-LIDAR
- RoboBee could be useful in surveillance, search and rescue missions, and many others
Back in 2007, engineers at Harvard University were successful in making their RoboBee take flight. However, their project was far from over, as they tackled other areas where the insect-inspired bot could move. Their goal? To design the “first ever aerial and aquatic capable insect-scale robot”.
For the most part, their ambitions have been reached. The RoboBee is able to flap its wings at an incredible 120 times per second, which essentially helps it hover like a real-life insect. However, the researchers needed to tackle the question of what to do when their project landed in water. It was the necessary next step.
The engineers managed to design its wing patterns in a way that it would allow the RoboBee to adjust to a liquid environment. In fact, when it lands into water, the tiny bot efficiently shifts the speed, slows it down, and that allows it to swim. By flapping its wings much slower, it can travel back up to the surface. However, while it cannot make itself airborne again, it will not sink to the bottom.
At the moment, however, the engineered bee-like bot is blind. It cannot perceive depth or incoming objects, which serves as a drastic limitation to its ability. And a rather important one at that.
Scientists from the University of Buffalo in partnership with the original engineers from Harvard now plan on offering RoboBee vision. They will work on the bot’s abilities to emit light impulses through LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging). Only they will be using a tiny-sized version in order not to hinder on the robotic bee’s weight.
According to a computer scientist from the university, Karthik Dantu, this is “the same technology that automakers” use to make certain their self-driving vehicles don’t collide with other objects. The micro-LIDAR is no bigger than a penny. It will be designed not to pull down the RoboBee, considering it’s smaller than a paperclip.
It’s rather astounding how much of an inspiration nature can provide.
Researchers have claimed that tiny bots, such as RoboBee, will be highly useful in multiple situations. Ranging from military surveillance, search and rescue, traffic or weather monitoring, they could provide with excellent results.
Furthermore, they could also become beneficial for the original pollinators that they’re inspired from. Perhaps RoboBees could help colonies in achieving better results through efficient coordination.
Image source: robotsinsider.com