AI News, The first wireless flying robotic insect takes off

The first wireless flying robotic insect takes off

Wing flapping is a power-hungry process, and both the power source and the controller that directs the wings are too big and bulky to ride aboard a tiny robot.

They pointed the laser beam at a photovoltaic cell, which is attached above RoboFly and converts the laser light into electricity.

That's why the team designed a circuit that boosted the seven volts coming out of the photovoltaic cell up to the 240 volts needed for flight.

'The microcontroller acts like a real fly's brain telling wing muscles when to fire,' said co-author Vikram Iyer, a doctoral student in the UW Department of Electrical Engineering.

'On RoboFly, it tells the wings things like 'flap hard now' or 'don't flap.'' Specifically, the controller sends voltage in waves to mimic the fluttering of a real insect's wings.

'To make the wings flap forward swiftly, it sends a series of pulses in rapid succession and then slows the pulsing down as you get near the top of the wave.

While RoboFly is currently powered by a laser beam, future versions could use tiny batteries or harvest energy from radio frequency signals, Gollakota said.

'You could buy a suitcase full of them, open it up, and they would fly around your building looking for plumes of gas coming out of leaky pipes.

Watch a laser-powered RoboFly flap its tiny wings

He’s obviously very concerned with power efficiency — last month he and his colleagues published a way of transmitting video with 99 percent less power than usual.

“To make the wings flap forward swiftly, it sends a series of pulses in rapid succession and then slows the pulsing down as you get near the top of the wave.

At present the bot just takes off, travels almost no distance and lands — but that’s just to prove the concept of a wirelessly powered robot insect (it isn’t obvious).

The next steps are to improve onboard telemetry so it can control itself, and make a steered laser that can follow the little bug’s movements and continuously beam power in its direction.

Tiny robotic fly gets power from laser beam

A new kind of robotic fly, called RoboFly, receives power from a laser beam.

Insect-sized flying robots could help with time-consuming tasks like surveying crop growth on large farms or sniffing out gas leaks.

These robots soar by fluttering tiny wings because they are too small to use propellers, like those seen on their larger drone cousins.

Small size is advantageous: These robots are cheap to make and can easily slip into tight places that are inaccessible to big drones.

Wing flapping is a power-hungry process, and both the power source and the controller that directs the wings are too big and bulky to ride aboard a tiny robot.

That’s why the team designed a circuit that boosted the seven volts coming out of the photovoltaic cell up to the 240 volts needed for flight.

“To make the wings flap forward swiftly, it sends a series of pulses in rapid succession and then slows the pulsing down as you get near the top of the wave.

While RoboFly is currently powered by a laser beam, future versions could use tiny batteries or harvest energy from radio frequency signals, Gollakota says.

Future RoboFlies can also look forward to more advanced brains and sensor systems that help the robots navigate and complete tasks on their own, Fuller says.

“You could buy a suitcase full of them, open it up, and they would fly around your building looking for plumes of gas coming out of leaky pipes.

RoboFly Is the First Wireless Insectoid Robot to Take Flight

Drones come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but very small flying robots are hard to make for a variety of reasons.

Still, swarms of little, cheap robots could be ideal for tasks like environmental surveys or hunting down gas leaks.

If you want an insect-sized flying robot, an insect-like style of flight might be the best option from a physics standpoint.

The aptly named RoboFly has a small photoelectric panel atop a long wire extending from the device’s main circuit board.

The team designed a circuit board with a boost converter that can increase the output to 240 volts for a short time to flap the wings.

The team hopes that future versions of the RoboFly will include an adjustable laser power system, allowing the robot to fly freely.

Watch a Laser-Powered Robotic Fly Take Its First Flight

Insects may seem like mere pests, but their physical abilities are still beyond even the most sophisticated robots.

Engineers at the University of Washington have taken important first steps towards filling that gap by creating a robotic fly that has taken its first independent flaps.

With the right size and speed, robotic insects could do anything from surveying crop growth to inspecting pipes for microscopic leaks.

Our new wireless RoboFly shows they’re much closer to real life,” says co-author Sawyer Fuller, an assistant professor in the UW Department of Mechanical Engineering in a press statement.

Pointing a narrow invisible laser beam at a photovoltaic cell attached above the RoboFly, Fuller's team then let the cell convert the laser light into energy.

On top of that, a custom-built circuit boosts the seven volts coming from the photovoltaic cell to the 240 volts required for flight.

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