Robotic Insect “Flies” Off Vibrations

Flying robot insects are the subject of some intense research into exactly how they are able to accomplish their aerial feats.  A researcher at Arizona State University, Michele Milano, is investigating how a robofly flies.  Check out this video of his “flying brick”.  (You need Microsoft Media Player to see this.)  Also, look at this robot fly from the Harvard Microrobotics Lab to see what started this line of research.

The goal of developing a flying robo-insect is to build the ultimate surveillance tool.  A tiny robot that looks and flies like a real insect could enter a building and take a look around without raising an alarm.  How does the robofly take to the air?  Now, this new research seems to cast doubt on whether its the robots wings or the vibrations in the strings that guide it.  Or maybe its both.  So, the point of this story is that, even now, after over 100 years of powered flight, it is not always clear what the mechanics of flying involve or even why something can fly.

CREATING a free-flying robotic insect is the dearest wish of many an engineer because such a machine would have great potential in surveillance and in seeking out trapped people in search-and-rescue situations. But a curious effect might upset their plans.

Due to vibrations similar to those generated in a plucked guitar string, a robotic insect can defy gravity and "fly" up wire tethers.

Robotic insect 'flight' may be just good vibrations
Wed, 29 Jul 2009 08:00:00 GMT

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