project specification

RoboBees

A hybrid microdrone that can fly, dive into water, swim, propel itself back out of the water, and safely land. Inspired by the biology of a fly, with submillimeter-scale anatomy and two wafer-thin wings that flap at 120 times per second, robotic insects, or RoboBees, achieve vertical takeoff, hovering, and steering. The tiny robots flap their wings using piezoelectric actuators — strips of ceramic that expand and contract when an electric field is applied. Thin hinges of plastic embedded within a carbon fiber body frame serve as joints, and a delicately balanced control system commands the rotational motions in the flapping-wing robot, with each wing controlled independently in real-time.

Specifications

Weight 175 milligram
Flapping speed220 to 300 Hz (in the air)
9 to 13 Hz (in water)

Overview

Inspired by the biology of a fly, with submillimeter-scale anatomy and two wafer-thin wings that flap at 120 times per second, robotic insects, or RoboBees, achieve vertical takeoff, hovering, and steering. 

The tiny robots flap their wings using piezoelectric actuators — strips of ceramic that expand and contract when an electric field is applied. Thin hinges of plastic embedded within a carbon fiber body frame serve as joints, and a delicately balanced control system commands the rotational motions in the flapping-wing robot, with each wing controlled independently in real-time. 

Applications of RoboBees could include distributed environmental monitoring, search-and-rescue operations, and assistance with crop pollination.

The RoboBee is retrofitted with four buoyant and a central gas collection chambers. Once the RoboBee swims to the surface, an electrolytic plate in the chamber converts water into oxyhydrogen, a combustible gas fuel.

References

Article describing the background of the project, the mechanical design, and the brain and navigation.

R. Wood, R. Nagpal, G. Wei - ScientificAmerican.com, March 2013.

This paper recounts experiences designing the chip for the robot. Highlights the major challenges faced when designing for such a unique form factor, how designs and specifications were set by each collaborating lab, the difficulties of integrating a plethora of IP consisting of in-house digital and

Brandon Reagen, Xaun Zhang, Gu-Yeon Wei, et al.

Wevolver 2022