Scientists have developed a gadget that looks like a perching insect-robot, is the size of an insect, and can stick to and take off from ceilings at the action of an on/off switch.
Like balloons that stick to the wall, these insect-robots use electrostatic adhesion; it’s the same process of adhering or perching to different surfaces.
While they perch, the robots save energy.
The project is a contribution to another decade-long Harvard Microrobotics Laboratory scheme called “Robobee.” Director of Aerial Robotics Laboratory of Imperial College, Dr. Mirko Kovac said similar bots are currently trialed in “environmental monitoring and disaster-relief efforts,” reports the BBC News.
The robotic insects, each the size of a 10 pence coin, are drones programmed by the scientists to go into reconnaissance missions. The bots are equipped with sensors that could alert responders to natural disasters like forest fires.
Explaining the reason behind the energy-saving process of perching, Ph.D. Massachusetts Institute of Technology student and lead researcher for the insect-robot gizmo said hovering makes micro robots run fast out of energy while perching helps save it and allow these tiny robots to stick around for longer periods.
Maintaining power takes five hundred to a thousand times less than using the power to fly.
The challenges of creating something equal to perching mechanical tools and making the perching insect-robot detach easily were huge. So to solve them, the scientists designed a “landing patch” electrostatically charged that would be switched on and off to effortlessly adhere and let go.
Because the flying robot doesn’t need to pull itself away from a surface, as it would with chemical adhesives, using electrostatic attraction that is turned on or off also saves energy.
If renewable energies were added to the design of this Robobee, the bot could recharge its batteries while performing other tasks.
The perching insect-robot is relatively cheap to manufacture, and the technology can be used in traffic control tasks or search-and-rescue situations. The techniques implemented in the Robobee might also serve other robotic tasks like micromanipulation and adhesion in locomotion.
The study has been published in last week’s Science issue, and it is called “Perching and takeoff of a robotic insect on overhangs using switchable electrostatic adhesion.”
Image source: Popularmechanics