Doing something involves a lot of compromise. Larger containers may contain more fuel or batteries, but they are too big and the required lifting is too much. Small things take less lift to fly, but may not contain a battery with enough energy to do so. The size of an insect's drones have had this problem in the past – but now this RoboFly takes its first flaps in the air … all thanks to the power of lasers.
We've already seen flying bugs the size of a bug, like the RoboBee, but as you can see, it has attached wires that provide power. The batteries on board would weigh too much, so researchers have focused in the past on demonstrating that flight is possible in the first place on this scale.
But what if you could supply energy to the outside without wires? That's the idea behind the RoboFly of the University of Washington, a sort of spiritual successor to the RoboBee that draws its power from a laser driven on an attached photovoltaic cell.
"This was the most effective way to quickly transmit a lot of power to RoboFly without adding much weight," said co-author of the article describing the robot, Shyam Gollakota. . He is obviously very concerned about energy efficiency – last month he and his colleagues published a way to convey video with 99 percent less energy than usual.
There is more than enough power in the laser to drive the robot's wings; It is adjusted to the correct voltage by an integrated circuit, and a microcontroller sends that power to the wings depending on what they have to do. That's where it goes:
"To quickly twirl the wings, it sends a series of pulses in rapid succession, then slows the pulsation when you approach the top of the wave." And then, he does that backwards for that the wings are flapping gently in the other direction, "says lead author Johannes James.
At the present time, the robot is just taking off, it hardly travels and it lands – but it's just to prove the concept of a wireless robot robot (this n & rsquo; Is not obvious). The next steps are to improve on-board telemetry so that it can control itself and create an oriented laser capable of tracking the movements of the small insect and directing power in its direction.
The team will visit Australia next week to present the RoboFly at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Brisbane.