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Robobees to the Rescue?

Source: YouTube Video

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Robotic bees? It's just so crazy it could work!

Know anything more about this? Are they considered drones or just robots?

"Just" robots.  They could pollinate crops!!  :)

The unique submillimeter-scale anatomy of RoboBee uses two wafer-thin wings that flap almost invisibly, 120 times per second. At tiny scales, small changes in airflow can have an outsized effect on flight dynamics, and the control system has to react that much faster to remain stable. For the wing ‘muscles’ the tiny robot employs piezoelectric actuators – strips of ceramic that expand and contract when an electric field is applied. Thin hinges of plastic embedded within the carbon fiber body frame serve as joints, and a delicately balanced control system commands the rotational motions, differentially moving the flapping wings to generate directional motion.

The first flights that took place in the summer of 2012 employed a tethered version feeding power and processing from external devices. The next steps in the program will involve integrating the parallel work of different research teams who are working on the brain, the colony coordination behavior, the power source, etc., leading to the evolution of fully autonomous, wireless robotic insects. High energy-density fuel cells must be developed before the RoboBees will be able to fly with more independence.

RoboBee design. Image courtesy of Kevin Ma and Pakpong Chirarattananon.

So are robobees patented and owned by a single company?

Or are multiple companies competing with different robobee designs?

Applications of the RoboBee type ‘creatures’ could include distributed environmental monitoring, search-and-rescue operations, or assistance with crop pollination, but the materials, fabrication techniques, and components that emerge along the way might prove to be even more significant. 

The US Air Force is also working on similar technologies, under the Air Force Research Lab Micro-Aviary program. The US Army is also working on micro-bots, through thethe Army Research Laboratory’s (ARL) Micro Autonomous Systems and Technology (MAST) Collaborative Technology Alliance.

Actually, that sounds really cool!

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