MIT’s insect-sized drones are built to survive collisions

Insects are a lot of things – but fragile they’re not. Sure, most can’t withstand the full force of a human foot, but for their size, they’re evolve to be extremely rugged and resilient. Insect-sized technology, on the other hand, is general another story.

That’s certainly been the historic case with scaled-down drones. The components, in particular, tend to become more fragile the more you shrunk them. In particular, motors both lose efficiency and weaken the smaller they get.

Earlier models from the MIT lab have relied on rigid ceramic-based materials. They did the job in terms of getting the robot airborne, but as the lab notes, “foraging bumblebees endure a collision about once every second.” In other words, if you’re going to build something this small, you need to ensure that it doesn’t break down the first time it comes into contact with something.

“The challenge of building small aerial robots is immense,” says MIT Assistant Professor Kevin Yufeng Chen.

New drone models, which the lab describes as resembling, “a cassette tape with wings,” are built with soft actuators, made from carbon nanotube-coated rubber cylinders. The actuators elongate when electricity is applied at a rate up to 500 times a second. Doing this causes the wings to beat and the drones to take flight.

The drones are extremely light weight, as well, coming in at around 0.6 grams – basically as much as a big bumble bee. There are still limitations to these early models. Namely, the system currently requires them to be hardwired to deliver the necessary charge – as seen in the below gif. It can be a bit of a mess. Other modifications are being made, as well, including a more nature-inspired dragonfly shape being used for newer prototypes.

Image Credits: MIT

Should such the lab be able to to produce such a robot untethered with imaging capabilities and a decent sized battery, the potential applications are immense for the tiny drones. You’ve got everything from simple inspections currently being handled by larger models to pollination and search and rescue.

Related Articles

US regulator approves first-ever fully autonomous commercial drone flights

The Federal Aviation Administration has approved the first-ever fully-automated commercial drone flights. The US aviation regulator has permitted American Robotics to fly its Scout quadcopter beyond the line-of-sight of human operators. In approval documents recently posted on the FAA website,  the agency said the exemption only applies to rural areas, daylight visibility, and altitudes below 400 feet. The drones must also have a maximum takeoff weight of 20 pounds and operate solely for the purposes of research and development, crew training, and market surveys. [Read: How Netflix shapes mainstream culture, explained by data] American Robotics must also designate a remote pilot in command for each flight who “has… This story continues at The Next Web

Maker of Sophia the robot plans to sell droids to people seeking company during COVID

The maker of Sophia the robot plans to sell droids to people craving company during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hanson Robotics aims to roll out four models — including Sophia — in the first half of 2021. “Sophia and Hanson robots are unique by being so human-like,” CEO David Hanson told Reuters. “That can be so useful during these times where people are terribly lonely and socially isolated.” The Hong Kong-based firm aims to sell “thousands” of the droids this year. Hanson believes they could help fight the pandemic, which has accelerated demand for automation and robotics. [Read: How this company leveraged AI to become the Netflix… This story continues at The Next Web

Responses

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Receive the latest news

Subscribe To Our Weekly Newsletter

Get notified about chronicles from TreatMyBrand directly in your inbox