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Flight of the RoboBee: Tiny hovering robot creates buzz

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Pete Spotts
Christian Science Monitor
May 3, 2013

A robotic fly with a body not much taller than a penny standing on edge has taken to the air, passing its tests with flying colors. The RoboBee, as it’s called, is the smallest artificial insect yet flown, according to the team that built it.

It lifts off the table, hovers, and flies in different directions. At this point in its evolution, the bug is still tethered by thin wires that allow its designers to power and guide it. And landing remains an issue. The robot ends its sorties with all the grace of a mosquito nailed with a burst of Raid.

Still, the tiny craft’s success – the team that designed it said it was the first such object to fly in a controlled manner – represents a key step in developing insect-size drones that designers say could one day search collapsed buildings for survivors after a disaster, sample an environment for hazardous chemicals before humans are sent in, or pinpoint enemy soldiers or terrorists holed up in urban areas.

Some members of the team suggest that future generations of the bug could serve as a robotic pollinator for plants, though without the side benefit of honey.

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This article was posted: Friday, May 3, 2013 at 11:28 am





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