The future is here: the first "robot-insect" began to fly

The future is here: the first "robot-insect" began to fly

They called it “RoboFly” and it works without batteries thanks to a photoelectric cell and a laser
Engineers from the University of Washington have created RoboFly, the first wireless robotic flying insect. RoboFly is a bit heavier than a toothpick and works with a laser beam. The truth is that with a weight of just one gram, this tiny robotic insect that wants to fly faces up to now an insurmountable barrier: the weight of the battery would be the one that would prevent it from taking off. In the previous tests, this type of robots have always used cables for their feeding. But the new “RoboFly” is ready to be the first of an army of robot insects capable of doing so without any battery in its body. The trick, as they say at the University of Washington (responsible for the project), is to indirectly provide the necessary energy to move their wings. The system they have presented consists of a small photovoltaic cell as an antenna and receives a directed beam of “laser light”, which is transformed into electricity. Subsequently the 7 volts obtained from the small cell are transformed to 240 V with which to generate the movement of the wings by different impulses. For now the laser does not have a tracking system for the insect, so after beating its small wings and rising, it stops receiving energy and lands again. What would be the solution? A system that could keep the laser pointed at all times to the photovoltaic cell of the insect in real time, and is in development. According to one of the engineers responsible for the project, Shyam Gollakota, this system is currently the most efficient way to get enough energy in the robot without having to add an extra weight that would make it impossible to fly. For the future, in addition to evolved batteries and of little weight, it is studied to use radio signals for that feeding during the flight. The instructions for the flight are transmitted to the wings by a microprocessor, which the engineers have integrated into the same converter circuit and power transformer. In short, it is an invention that until now we had only seen in movies and futuristic series but that today is among us.

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