A Harvard University team of scientists that has long since been working on the RoboBee, a tiny robot that just like a pollinator can swim in and out water and also fly and that is now getting a new version. Unlikely its predecessors, which were specialized on just one of these actions, this latest robot can do all of them.
The RoboBee project first came into the limelight following its reveal in 2013. Since then, it has gone through quite a number of updates and upgrades, but this new RoboBee is the most advanced one yet.
The New RoboBee and its Propulsion System
Harvard’s SEAS and Wyss Institute for Biologically-Inspired Engineering researchers are behind this latest prototype. This was presented, in a statement from the team, as being some 1,000 lighter than its predecessors. It is also the most advanced one yet, as its new floating devices help break its previous boundaries.
Thanks to this additional technology, this microrobot can easily be considered a multipurpose air-water device.
“We designed new mechanisms that allow the vehicle to directly transition from water to air, something that is beyond what nature can achieve in the insect world,” states Yufeng Chen, the study paper’s first author.
This is achieved thanks to the floating devices, which allow the RoboBee to stabilize itself when on a watery surface. Igniting their internal combustion system also helps the microrobot propel itself back into the air. The robot’s design should also ensure that this always lands on its feet.
Still, the microrobot does suffer from several limitations, some of them being tied to its lack of onboard sensors. The fact that its motion-tracking system is limited as well is also currently limiting its ability to propel itself out of water immediately.
As it is, the study team considers that this sort of microrobot could have a wide variety of useful applications. For example, it might be useful for search and rescue missions or for biological studies and environmental monitoring, among others.
The research behind this latest version of RoboBees was released in the journal Science Robotics.
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