Engineers at the University of Washington have created RoboFly, the first wireless flying robotic insect.This might be one small flap for a robot, but it’s one giant leap for robot-kind.
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.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 give RoboFly control over its own wings, the engineers provided a brain: They added a microcontroller to the same circuit.The microcontroller acts like a real fly’s brain telling wing muscles when to fire,specifically, the controller sends voltage in waves to mimic the fluttering of a real insect’s wings.