At this small scale, tiny changes in air movement can have an even larger effect on the robot's flight dynamics and its rotational movements. Independent control of each wing makes it easier to control the robot's flight. (Source: Kevin Ma and Pakpong Chirarattananon/Harvard University)
sonofsoil17, that's an interesting idea about using energy harvesting for RoboBee instead of onboard power storage. I'm pretty sure electrical engineers are already on this research team and they may be working on that idea already.
Chuck, the flapping wing thing is insanely hard to do. I'm putting together another flying robot slideshow, and reading more about the R&D involved. It just doesn't happen quickly, no matter who's worked on it.
Cool mechanical feat! The tether is just a challange I think this group has yet to be addressed. You don't necessarily need an onboard rechargeable battery. If some electrical engineers get involved, you'll see things like harvesting radio signals and temperature changes to power capacitors or batteries and using the mechanical structure (maybe with modifications) for the communications and antenna, etc. Now if we can just get this mechanical swarm flying and design it to zap mosquitos near my backyard deck!
I agree with Al that 10 years is a long time in the making but they are impressive-looking robots! The tethering at this point is a bit cumbersome, I suppose, but as you point out, Ann, it's quite complex to design these type of robots, so it's still quite an accomplishment. And they just look really cool.
For some reason, this reminds me of the Kracker Jackers in The Hunger Games. Those damn things were venomous. Coming back to the topic, this is certainly an impressive feat. And now that I think of it, these little guys will help immensely in exploration by getting through hard-to-reach places.
Cool story, Ann. I'm amazed by the flapping wing concept. The dynamics of this appear to be much different than the graceful flapping of Festo's SmartBird. Has anyone else used this concept in larger sizes?
They may have just solved the problem with the bees disappearing (or returning to their home world). We just need enough operators to go into the fields and pollinate all the flowers with these little flappy things. The honey might taste a little oily. Think of the employment possibilities, at less than 30 hours a week, of course- thank you Mr. President.
All that aside, I can only imagine what it took to get this far. If they could just lose the tether.