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article imageHarvard robotic insects make first controlled flight

By Milton Este     May 7, 2013 in Technology
Aerial drones aren't a new concept, but in fact has been researched and developed for quite some time. While they are becoming smaller and smaller, the roboticists over at University of Harvard developed the smallest aerial drone so far.
It's name is RoboBee, which according to the School of Engineering and Applied Science was inspired by the biological workings of a bee and the insect's hive behavior. This project utilizes technology to demonstrate the potentials of ultra low power computing and electronic "smart" sensors to refine coordination algorithms to manage multiple, independent machines.
In the early morning of May 2, 2013, the Harvard robotics laboratory team assisted the flight of an insect. According to them:
[It's] half the size of a paperclip, weighing less than a tenth of a gram, it leapt a few inches, hovered for a moment on fragile, flapping wings, and then sped along a preset route through the air.
Co-lead Author, Kevin Y. Ma, explains that larger robots can run on electromagnetic motors, but smaller ones such as this cannot and must seek alternative solutions, which there isn't one. After going through 20 prototypes in the past six months, they have finally gotten the RoboBee to work and take flight.
While DVICE predicted the original application being used for drone spying, the researchers group sees the application of such drone working towards autonomously pollinating a field of crops, search and rescue, hazardous environment exploration, military surveillance, high resolution weather and climate mapping, and even traffic monitoring.
The Harvard robotics team posted a video demonstrating the current workings of the RoboBee and hopefully will continue to work on bringing it's true potential to reality.
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