Solar-powered winged robot has become the lightest machine capable of flying without being attached to a power source.
Weighing just 259 milligrams, the insect-inspired RoboBee X-Wing has four wings that flap 170 times per second. It has a wingspan of 3.5 centimeters and stands 6.5 centimeters high.
The flying robot was developed by Noah Jafferis and his colleagues at Harvard University
Its wings are controlled by two piezoelectric driven muscle-like plates that contract when voltage passes through them. They are powered by six tiny, ultralight solar cells weighing 10 milligrams each, which are located above the wings so as not to interfere with flight. The system exceeds the thrust efficiency of living insects.
Currently, it has only been tested in the lab, where it is powered by a combination of halogen and LED lighting, says Jafferis. Although the lab lighting provides more than twice the amount of in-band energy than sunlight would, it system does provide more thrust than needed for flight.
Untethered Flight of an Insect-Sized Flapping-Wing Microscale Aerial Vehicle, Harvard University (published in Nature), 27 June 2019
Insect-sized robot takes flight: RoboBee X-Wing, Nature International Journal of Science, 26 Jun 2019