The Michael Phelps of Robots / High-Speed, Efficient Butterfly Stroking Robot

North Carolina State University researchers recently developed a butterfly-stroking soft robotic swimmer that can reach speeds of 3.74 body length per second — nearly five times faster than its contemporaries. Weighing in at just 2.8 grams, the robotic swimmer with a soft body and a pair of bistable flapping wing boasts a high-power efficiency with low cost of energy.

“Most previous attempts to develop flapping robots have focused on using motors to provide power directly to the wings,” says Jie Yin , corresponding author of a paper on the work and an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at NC State. “Our approach uses bistable wings that are passively driven by moving the central body. This is an important distinction, because it allows for a simplified design, which lowers the weight.”