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Robot 'Fly' Mimics Full Range of Insect Flight

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the flyswatters-banned-in-the-lab-that-made-them dept.

Robotics 41

ananyo writes "A robot as small as a housefly has managed the delicate task of flying and hovering the way the actual insects do. The device uses layers of ultrathin materials that can make its wings flap 120 times a second, similar to the rate that a housefly manages. The robot's wings are composed of thin polyester films reinforced with carbon fibre ribs and its 'muscles' are made from piezoelectric crystals, which shrink or stretch depending on the voltage applied to them. Weighing in at just 80 milligrams, the tiny drone cannot carry its own power source, so has to stay tethered to the ground. It also relies on a computer to monitor its motion and adjust its attitude (abstract). Still, it is the first robot to deploy a fly's full range of aerial motion, including hovering (there's a video in the source)."

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Spiderweb (5, Funny)

binarylarry (1338699) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620617)

It'd be great to land this thing in a spiderweb and see how the spider responds.

Re:Spiderweb (1)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620781)

I'm just waiting for the fly on the wall documentary :)

Re:Spiderweb (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43621659)

Spider: Nice night for flying, eh?
Fly: Nice night for flying.
Spider: Nice wire. Handy for finding your way home, right?
Fly: Handy for finding your way home. Right.
Spider: Hey, I think this fly's a couple bees short of a hive.
Fly: Your web... give it to me, now.

Re:Spiderweb (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about a year and a half ago | (#43622403)

But can we fit the required speaker so it can cry, "Help me! Help me!"?

http://www.linuxadvocates.com/p/support.html (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43620625)

Dear Linux Advocate,

Money doesn't grow on trees. And, Linux Advocates is growing. Naturally, we anticipate operating costs and hope to be able to meet them.

But, any amount you feel you are able to donate in support of our ongoing work will be most surely appreciated and put to very good use. Your contributions keep Linux Advocates growing.

Show your support by making a donation today.

Thank you.

Dieter T. Schmitz
Linux Advocates, Owner

http://www.linuxadvocates.com/p/support.html [linuxadvocates.com]

HELP ME!!! (1)

Greg01851 (720452) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620685)

obligatory "The Fly" movie quote...

But... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43620791)

Can it land on a ceiling?

Re:But... (1)

localman57 (1340533) | about a year and a half ago | (#43621003)

Or make more little flies?

Re:But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43621289)

Is it attracted to dung piles?

Re:But... (1)

femtobyte (710429) | about a year and a half ago | (#43622027)

Yes. By attracting further research funding, this fly will likely succeed in spawning a new generation of robo-flies. And, if those continue to succeed in procreating with funding agencies (and even finding new survival niches), we'll eventually have little robo-fly offspring everywhere.

Re:But... (1)

plover (150551) | about a year and a half ago | (#43623461)

I, for one, will SWAT our new robotic fly overlords! Ha ha!

Housefly? (2)

lcampagn (842601) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620793)

That "fly" is larger than the quarter provided for scale. Biggest damn housefly I've ever seen.

Housefly? Try Dragonfly! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43620871)

Dragonfly, yes, that would be more fitting. AND the story omits that the robot's size does NOT include a power source (battery) so it's fully tethered by a power wire dangling from it. Yes, it's impressive, but obviously there are some tremendous hurdles still to be overcome (power source being the toughest in my opinion). ALSO that wire tether very well may have connected to external processing power, yet another hurdle in the way of a truly autonomous, independent micro robot wherein power source, sensors, and control processing is all on-board.

Re:Housefly? Try Dragonfly! (1)

bws111 (1216812) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620899)

Right in the summary: " the tiny drone cannot carry its own power source, so has to stay tethered to the ground. It also relies on a computer to monitor its motion and adjust its attitude"

Re:Housefly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43621969)

Yeah. Why do they say housefly when it's so wrong?

Anyway it shows how far behind we are in tech. Houseflies can fly independently (for quite long too), navigate, try to avoid enemies, find their own fuel sources, digest it to usable fuel, reproduce.

Re:Housefly? (1)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | about a year and a half ago | (#43622163)

Yeah. Why do they say housefly when it's so wrong?

Anyway it shows how far behind we are in tech. Houseflies can fly independently (for quite long too), navigate, try to avoid enemies, find their own fuel sources, digest it to usable fuel, reproduce.

and suddenly become invisible if someone picks up a fly swatter...

Re:Housefly? (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year and a half ago | (#43622399)

Yes. And echo -1 AC: this "shows how far behind we are in tech." Although I do not agree with the word "behind". I'd say "not yet advanced".

The title is yet another gross exaggeration of tech advancement, as so many have been to the point they're tiresome. Not only is that not "the full range of insect flight" (since when is hovering in place "full range"?), it's a very far cry from independent flight.

As the researcher admitted: it will probably be another 5-10 years before we have the technology to make the title really accurate. And even that would depend on enough advances in networking that the wire can be removed.

Re:Housefly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43625497)

I've seen hoRse flies about that size before. And been bitten by one.

Energy Density (5, Informative)

lobiusmoop (305328) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620807)

Energy density: [wikipedia.org]

Carbohydrate: 17 MJ/Kg
Lithium battery: (non-rechargable): 1.8MJ/Kg
Lithium battery: (rechargable): 0.75MJ/Kg

So until the power source gets a bit more 'organic' I guess it will remain tethered.

Re:Energy Density (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620875)

So much energy, yet it just tastes so good.

10-15 min flight time (1)

schlachter (862210) | about a year and a half ago | (#43621117)

it says it can only fly for 10 to 15 min because its wing joints wear out and break apart after that.

Re:Energy Density (2)

Ryanrule (1657199) | about a year and a half ago | (#43621337)

Its pretty obvious a nuclear option is needed.

Re:Energy Density (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a year and a half ago | (#43622259)

actually, a small plutonium battery might just do it.

Re:Energy Density (1)

femtobyte (710429) | about a year and a half ago | (#43623711)

Plutonium radiothermal generators have excellent energy density but terrible *power density* --- you can get a lot of energy per mass out of them very slowly, but you can't get high power from them (lots of energy in a short time). Great if you want to keep a rover or spacecraft running for decades without swapping out the battery; but useless for a flappy bug robot, which needs an energy source with a high power:weight ratio.

Re:Energy Density (1)

LoRdTAW (99712) | about a year and a half ago | (#43622031)

What would be interesting is if they develop an inductive or electromagnetic recharging system that enables the fly to park itself near an electric or electronic device and slowly recharge itself using the electromagnetic/RF leakage. A live wire carrying current has a slight magnetic field around it that could provide enough power to charge the fly bot. Even if it could only fly for a few minutes, the fly can just buzz around and then recharge itself.

Makes for an interesting surveillance device.

Re:Energy Density (1)

kevkingofthesea (2668309) | about a year and a half ago | (#43624105)

It's wild when you realize that even if the entire mass of the "fly" was a battery, it would only be able to contain 144 Joules.

Re:Energy Density (1)

Ginger Unicorn (952287) | about a year and a half ago | (#43625653)

could the power be transmitted to it wirelessly?

Blart Versenwald III (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43621013)

Blart Versenwald III created (among other things) a remarkable new breed of superfly that could distinguish between solid glass and an open window, and also an off-switch for children.

Thanks to Douglas Adams, via Wikipedia

This gives a whole new meaning to ... (1)

Skapare (16644) | about a year and a half ago | (#43621053)

... the famous phase "I'd love to be a fly on the wall in that room when they discuss ...".

Re:This gives a whole new meaning to ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43621645)

No, it doesn't.

Only marginally impressed by this (1)

kheldan (1460303) | about a year and a half ago | (#43621949)

When they can create a robotic fly that can do all this and has it's own self-contained power source instead of having to have wires trailing it to a power supply, then I'll be impressed.

Re:Only marginally impressed by this (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a year and a half ago | (#43622271)

and I'll be terrified.

Re:Only marginally impressed by this (1)

fisted (2295862) | about a year and a half ago | (#43622469)

and i'll be all like "meh".

The future of drones (1, Troll)

trenobus (730756) | about a year and a half ago | (#43622119)

I imagine the day will come when flying robotic insects smaller than these (and untethered) will be able to deliver a lethal chemical or biological injection to a selected human target. They could be piloted from a smart phone. Think about the implications of that, in light of our current drone program.

But the really funny thing is all the gun nuts who have so religiously pursued the acquisition of automatic weapons to defend their liberty against our tyrannical government. It turns out that what they really will be needing are lots of flyswatters. Just picture them trying to deal with this threat with AK-47's. "Hold still, Charlie, while I shoot that drone buzzing your head."

We better get our act together. The future is coming, ready or not.

Lies, Inc. (1)

l0ungeb0y (442022) | about a year and a half ago | (#43622499)

I recall in that PKD story, they used a robotic housefly to conduct surveillance on people. And while we are safe for now, I am sure the CIA and FBI are wetting themselves thinking about the day they can get a power source with the energy density to power this fly sized drone without a tether and for hours at a time.

Why waste time with getting warrants for wiretaps when they can just let loose a few fly drones in the suspect's window?

Re:Lies, Inc. (1)

dave_leigh (67481) | about a year and a half ago | (#43623111)

Why waste time with getting warrants for wiretaps when they can just let loose a few fly drones in the suspect's window?

Which is why I think I'll start immediate work on electrified window screens that can scramble robot flies' circuitry. Then I'll sell them to the CIA for protection against their own tech.

Every problem is an opportunity. Stay thirsty, my friend.

Re:Lies, Inc. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43623147)

Ya, just wait till those micro batteries they reported on last week get put into these, Oh.. and the optional tiny syringe filled with ebola or other suitable nasty would make this a great assassination tool. Don't think someone isn't working on this...

Fly Upside Down, Land on Ceiling? (1)

fygment (444210) | about a year and a half ago | (#43623109)

Didn't think so. Only thing this is, is small. It doesn't do anything like a fly.

Fallout from the Fly Wars (1)

dave_leigh (67481) | about a year and a half ago | (#43623159)

The best part about projects like this are the fallout technologies. Imagine that they solve the on-board battery problem... a battery with the requisite light weight, power, and long life may not be possible, but TRYING to make one may actually give us a decent cell phone or laptop battery.

Makers of the robot (1)

KBehemoth (2519358) | about a year and a half ago | (#43623375)

Here's the lab at Harvard [harvard.edu] that developed this robot. There's more cool stuff on the YouTube channel [youtube.com] .
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