Engineers from University of Washington have turned out the science fiction of creating insect sized flying robots into reality. This Robofly is slightly heavier than a toothpick and is run by power supplied by laser beams.
Tiny sized flying robots could help with tedious tasks like surveying crop growth or sniffing out gas leaks. Its miniature size is highly advantageous to the tech industry as it is cheap to create and can easily peep in to tight places.
For the first time, engineers have removed the chain and added the brain to the robot to enable it fly independently. The team will showcase its invention at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Brisbane, Australia on May, 23.
It is powered by laser beam where a tiny onboard circuit is placed that converts laser energy into electricity to operate its machinery. Wing flapping is a power-eating process and to attach both the power source and the controller would make the robot too heavy to fly. Therefore, this time engineers have put on photo-voltaic cells on which the beams convert its 7V energy to 240V needed for the flight.
They added a microcontroller to the robot enabling it to operate its wings independently. It works as a brain which sends series of pulses to Robofly about when to flap hard and when to stop flapping. Once the tiny robot is out of power, it automatically lands.
Future Robofly will be using tiny batteries or may be extracting energy from radio frequency signals. They will be modified enough in terms of brain to navigate and complete tasks on their own.
Its creation is inspired by real flies that smell out every gas and therefore it too can sniff out any gas leaks, leakage in pipelines and also check up the emission of green house gases in atmosphere.