Robot Moth Launched by Harvard Researchers

Printer-friendly versionSend by emailPDF version

The researchers of Harvard were occupied on their ‘robot bee’ project for a long time. Their hard work resulted in an extraordinarily small robot of a bee size, but it turns out to be so small it is not expected to fly with onboard computing and power in the real-time future. Also, the flight features of small insects like bees are extensively different from large-size insects such as moths and butterflies, which reveal combinations of gliding, flapping and soaring flight.

To investigate further, the Harvard researchers have introduced FWMAV, a new insect-size flapping-wing tiny air vehicle that is just tiny enough to be termed as a ‘micro’ and just large enough to function completely freed.

According to the researchers, the robot moth can efficiently maintain a constant altitude by flapping its wings around 70 percent to 80 percent of the total time. With its delicate wings, it is expected that the robot can work even more efficiently if it is in a much healthier condition. FWMAV weighs only 3 grams and possesses a wingspan of 16 centimeters, which is approximately half of the weight of the motor. It is a completely unstrapped robot with onboard communication, control, and power systems. The overall performance and dimensions of this robot moth are analogous to that of a tobacco hawk moth.

Flapping at a rate of 25 Hz, it can be close to about 4g of thrust that is more than sufficient enough to make it airborne. The flapping motion is created by a folded carbon fiber transmission that transforms the rotary movement of the motor into down and up movements of the wings. These wings are crafted to stretch over a 90-degree range to alter their angle of attack and enhance aerodynamics in the similar way that is performed by the real insect wings.

The most deviated part from the biological design is the tail, which looks more like an airplane structure than like a moth. Such a design helps to keep the robot in a stable state. The original moth can perform such activity using autonomous regulator of each of their wings, but since the FWMAV does not have this feature, so the tail becomes an essential part of it. Also, it cannot take off by itself and hence is required to be propelled by catapult.

As compared to the RoboBee that can steer, hover and can take off by itself, the FWMAV seems a little basic. But since it is just the first representation of the hardware validation, so it is expected that might be some new features will be integrated into the moth.

Conclusion – Researchers are already scheduling to integrate aerodynamic improvements and tail actuation and also a redesigning to enable self-regulating control over each wing. The researchers are also planning forward to take the robot outside of the motion arrest area that it is presently confined to with the aim of a closed-loop flight in larger, more open spaces.