Get to know the Robofly: wireless insect powered by laser flies

Get to know the Robofly: wireless insect powered by laser flies

A radical laser robot the size of a toothpick could soon revolutionize everything from disaster recovery to gas leaks

Although there were insect-sized flying robots for some time, but until now could not face any unbound battles.

Engineers at the University of Washington have announced that the RoboFly had taken its first hinged lid earlier this year. This was the first time a wireless flying robot insect had flown.

Now the man behind the project has shown that he hopes to be able to pull completely autonomous swarms through the sky within five years.

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Engineers at the University of Washington have announced that the RoboFly has its first flaps without end, which is the first time a wireless flying robot insect has flown

Engineers at the University of Washington have announced that the RoboFly has its first flaps without end, which is the first time a wireless flying robot insect has flown

RoboFly is just a little heavier than a toothpick and powered by an integrated circuit that converts the laser energy into sufficient electrical energy to operate its wings.

Previously, the electronics used by the insects to drive and control their wings was too heavy for the robots to fly with, meaning they had to stay connected to a wire.

"So far, the concept of insect-sized wireless flight robots has been science-fiction. Would we ever be able to get it to work without a cable? Said Co-author Sawyer Fuller, assistant professor at the UW Department of Mechanical Engineering.

"Our new wireless RoboFly shows that they are much closer to real life."

Fuller told CNBC that the team hopes to be able to control the laser soon enough for RoboFly to float and fly around.

They are currently working on advanced brains and sensor systems to help robots navigate and perform tasks independently, Fuller said.

"With full autonomy, I would say that we are probably about five years off," he said.

Insect-sized flying robots could be used for time-consuming tasks, eg. B. for measuring plant growth in large farms or for detecting gas leaks.

"I really would like to make one that finds methane leaks," he said.

"They could buy a suitcase full of them, open it, and they would fly around in your building looking for gas clouds leaking out of leaking pipes."

RoboFly is only slightly heavier than a toothpick and powered by an integrated circuit that converts the laser energy into enough power to operate its wings

RoboFly is only slightly heavier than a toothpick and powered by an integrated circuit that converts the laser energy into enough power to operate its wings

The robot is operated with a narrow, invisible laser beam. They aimed the laser beam at a photovoltaic cell, which is mounted above RoboFly and converts the laser light into electricity

The robot is operated with a narrow, invisible laser beam. They aimed the laser beam at a photovoltaic cell, which is mounted above RoboFly and converts the laser light into electricity

"If these robots find it easy to find leaks, they will be mended much more frequently, reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

"This is inspired by real flies that are really good at flying around and looking for smelly things, so we think this is a good application for our RoboFly," Fuller continued.

They could also help with lifesaving search and rescue missions.

The robots fly through flapping wings because they are too small to use propellers.

However, their small size is an advantage because these robots are inexpensive to manufacture and can easily slip in tight spaces inaccessible to large drones.

Fuller had previously developed the RoboBee, which had a leash that allowed him to gain energy and control over wires from the ground.

The robot is operated with a narrow, invisible laser beam. They aimed the laser beam at a photovoltaic cell, which is mounted above RoboFly and converts the laser light into electricity.

"This was the most efficient way to transfer a lot of power to RoboFly quickly and without much weight," said co-author Shyam Gollakota, a professor at the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering at UW.

At the moment, RoboFly can only start and land, but the team hopes soon that it will be possible for him to move the laser to control the robot insect.

The laser alone does not provide enough tension to move the wings. Therefore, the team developed a circuit that increases the seven volts coming from the photovoltaic cell to 240 volts needed for the flight.

To give RoboFly control over its own wings, engineers have added a single microcontroller.

"The microcontroller behaves like the brain of a real fly and tells the wing muscles when to fire," said Vikram Iyer, a PhD student in the UW Department of Electrical Engineering. "At RoboFly it says things like" hit hard now "or" do not fold "."

HOW CAN CYBORG CARBON APPLICATIONS HELP IN DISEASE ZONES?

In November 2014, North Carolina State University researchers equipped cockroaches with electric backpacks and tiny microphones that can detect faint sounds.

The idea is that cyborg cockroaches or "biobots" could invade crumpled buildings that are affected by earthquakes and help rescue workers find survivors.

"In a collapsed building is the best way to find survivors," said Alper Bozkurt, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at North Carolina State University.

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a technology that allows cockroaches (pictured) to pick up sounds with small microphones and find the sound source. They could be used in emergency situations to detect survivors

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a technology that allows cockroaches (pictured) to pick up sounds with small microphones and find the sound source. They could be used in emergency situations to detect survivors

"The goal is to use the biobots with high-resolution microphones to distinguish between sounds that are significant – such as those calling for help – from sounds that are irrelevant – like a leaky whistle.

"Once we've identified sounds that matter, we can use the bioboxes equipped with microphone arrays to null the origin of the sounds."

The "backpacks" control the movements of Robo Roach because they are connected to the sense organs of the insect that cockroaches normally feel when their abdomen bumps into something.

Electrical stimulation of the cerci may prompt cockroaches to move in a particular direction.

In fact, they were programmed to seek sound.

One type of "backpack" is equipped with a series of three directional microphones to detect the direction of the sound and direct the biobot in the right direction.

Another type is equipped with a single microphone to pick up the sound from all directions, which can be transmitted wirelessly, possibly in the future, to rescue workers.

They have "worked well" in laboratory tests and the experts have developed a technology that can be used as an "invisible fence" to keep the biobots in a certain area like a disaster area, the researchers announced at the IEEE Sensors 2014 conference Valencia. Spain.

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