Harvard researchers have built a miniature robot that can go just about anywhere.
Researchers at Harvard have just developed a flying and swimming robot that they’ve dubbed “RoboBee.”
The research team from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) wanted to figure out how to build a robot that could transition from flying to swimming, like a puffin, which uses its flapping motions both to fly and to swim, according to a Phys.org report.
Scientists realized that there was actually not much different in how the wings are used during flight and while swimming, and that allowed them to come up with the idea for the RoboBee.
It could be a groundbreaking discovery that may lead to dual aerial aquatic robots. They described their findings in a paper at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems in Germany.
The RoboBee is smaller than a paperclip. It resembles an insect more than a puffin, hence its name, and is capable of flying and hovering with wings that beat 120 times per second.
Moving from flight to the water isn’t easy, and first the researchers needed to figure out the issue of surface tension, as the RoboBee is so lightweight it has a hard time breaking the surface of the water. So the researchers figured out a way to switch off the wings, allowing it to sink into the water.
Then there was the problem of the water’s density, which risked snapping off the RoboBee’s wing. So the researchers lowered the wing speed to just nine flaps per second.
This leads to another important phase: how to get RoboBee back in the air once it was in the water. The research team will need to do more work before they can solve this, but it’s an exciting first step for them.