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Microbot News: MIT Engineers Create Tiny Drone With Military And Civilian Applications

By Melvin Alfred Wong , May 20, 2016 05:20 AM EDT
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Engineers at MIT have created a tiny, flying machine that possesses actual wings which make it look like a bee; thus the name RoboBee. One of the issues that come with such a tiny robot though is the conservation of energy, and the engineers found a solution: The RoboBee is now able to stick to the underside of things and rest for a little while.

In one of the videos released by the MIT engineers, the tiny robot flies around for a bit, approaches the underside of a leaf and sticks to it for a few seconds before flying off again. Aside from leaves, the robot can also stick to other materials such as glass and wood. This is made possible through the application of static electricity which has a magnetic effect when utilized.

The robot in question was developed by Moritz Alexander Graule while attending Harvard University. Now, Graule is a student at MIT working on a PhD.

"Micro aerial vehicles run out of energy quickly," Moritz said. "They can stay in the air for about 10 to 30 minutes."

In terms of potential application for the technology, the matter of how long they can function is incredibly important for things like surveillance. Drones or tiny flying robots that only have enough power to last for a few minutes has limited uses. A small flying robot that can sit in place while conserving energy and moving only when needed, though, is a different matter.

The RoboBee can have multiple applications which the engineers have in mind, from monitoring traffic to helping with search and rescue operations. Of course, there is the underlying possibility of military uses where the armed forces can use the robot to collect data on possible threats. As for the construction methods of creating a robot that only weighs at 0.08 grams, other fields can benefit, including microsurgery.

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