The Washington Times on May 3, 2013, reported that Harvard scientists have succeeded in building a flying robot insect, smaller than a penny and weighing less than one-tenth of a gram — it took them 12 years and the robot is powered and controlled by a wire from a base station. Excerpts below:

A peer-reviewed paper published in the prestigious journal “Science” documents the achievement, which is judged considerable because of the scale of the engineering challenges.

The remote-controlled flying robot, dubbed RoboBee, has wafer-thin wings less than a centimeter long that beat 120 times a second.

Building motors so small that run so fast, explained lead RoboBee builder Prof. Robert J. Woods, was only made possible by “recent breakthroughs in manufacturing, materials, and design” at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Prof. Wood and Mr. Ma, along with Pakpong Chirarattananon and Sawyer B. Fuller, wrote the “Science” paper.

“We demonstrated tethered but unconstrained stable hovering and basic controlled flight maneuvers,” the authors state.

“This is what I have been trying to do for literally the last 12 years,” said Prof. Wood in a statement.

The prototype RoboBee is tethered to a base station by a very fine cable because there are not as yet any batteries for power or computers for control small enough to be mounted on its body.


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