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We will consider the drones of the future to be annoying flying insects



GIF: Harvard School of Engineering (YouTube)

Harvard's robotic flying bee has been in development for well over a decade. And despite its unbelievably simple design, its developers have been improving Robobee's capabilities in recent years, adding capabilities such as the ability to hover over a given trajectory and self-control. It is too small to carry its own batteries and has long relied on an attached power cord. But last August, for the first time, Robobee made a flight without wire rope.

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It was not necessarily the most spectacular flight. Instead of flying through the lab and whistling past the explorers' ears, Robobee took off for a second on his own before he fell from the sky, saved from a crash landing by an emergency kevlar safety wire. To accomplish this feat, RoboBee received some major hardware upgrades last year, including two additional wings, adding four in total, boosting lift capacity by 38 percent. It also has the smallest set of solar cells that you can buy, and weighs only 10 milligrams.

Despite these upgrades, the upgraded Robobee X-Wing, as the researchers call it, weighs only 259 milligrams. (By comparison, a normal sized paper clip is about four times as heavy.) Its incredibly light structure allows the insect's fly to fly without the need for batteries on board, which would cause considerable and problematic weight.

To eliminate the power cord, the added solar cells produce about 120 milliwatts of current, which researchers say is less than what is required to light a single LED on a series of Christmas lights. But that's all it takes to power Robobee's drives and wing beats – at least for a moment. To achieve a long-lasting flight, the Robobee X-Wing would need three times as bright a sun, which the researchers simulated in the laboratory with a set of bright, intense halogen lights.

Researchers have done a good job creating robot versions of animals such as dogs, cheetahs and even mules. However, this ongoing research shows how difficult it is to replicate the world's smallest creatures. It will be several years before Harvard's Robobe is able to fly around a controlled laboratory environment on its own, and even longer, until he can handle the uncertainty of the outside world, in which even the slightest breeze can knock him off course , But given this recent achievement, it's hard to imagine that a future in which a mosquito beats your ear is not associated with the risk of destroying an incredibly expensive micro drone trying to spy on you.


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