Harvard has finally completed developing a robot bee that’s the size of an ordinary bee but comes with a whole lot more features. Harvard has been developing a robot bee for years. The unveiled prototype is set to revolutionize surveillance, search and rescue and exploration expeditions forever.
The tiny robotic creatures are sub-paper clip sized, about 100 milligrams, and are installed with an aerial system that can be controlled from remote distances. So small are the bees that they can land on an average adult’s fingertip without tipping off and are light enough that the adult cannot feel their weight.
The tiny hovering machines are made even more spectacular by the fact that they are built to handle a wide variety of terrains: from air to land to water. Traditionally, robot technology has been limited to only one terrain: be it land or air. The miniscule robot bees that can hover over land and crash dive into water have therefore spellbound the science world.
On Tuesday, at the IROS, Harvard scientists presented a paper detailing how they enabled the bee to swim. The scientists revealed that when the bee flies, it does so under the full control of motion capture systems that can track its position and send commands to it, including crash diving prompts. The motion capture systems remain functional even underwater where the bee turns into a submarine.
The scientists proceeded to give an analogy comparing flying to swimming. They said that flying was like swimming in that in the two, the bee had to move through a medium by flapping its wings or fins. For flying, the bee had to flap its wings much faster through air, while for swimming it had to flap its fins at a more relaxed pace.
The scientists said that for the Robobee, flying was achieved by flapping its wings at 120 Hz, while swimming was through flapping their fins at only 9Hz. Three torque control features in the bee make it possible to steer the bee in water.
Building a bee that could hover in the air and sink in water was no easy task. The scientists said that initially, the bee’s unique weight was so light, the surface tension of water could not allow it to sink. Only after adding a surfactant onto the bee’s wings and forcing it to crash land in the water were they able to submerge it.
The Robobee is a terrific first for scientists. For rescue missions in the world, the bee will be vital in expediting searches and saving people from disasters across the globe.