RoboBees Land & Stick to Surfaces Using Static Electricity
Harvard University roboticists have demonstrated that their flying microrobots, called RoboBees, can now perch during flight to save energy - like bats or birds. The RoboBees one day may be used in search and rescue missions. The team turned to electrostatic adhesion - the same basic science that causes a static-charged balloon to stick to a wall. The RoboBee uses an electrode patch and a foam mount that absorbs shock. The entire mechanism weighs 13.4 mg, bringing the total weight of the robot to about 100mg - similar to the weight of a real bee. The robot takes off and flies normally. When the electrode patch is supplied with a charge, it can stick to almost any surface, from glass to wood to a leaf. To detach, the power supply is simply switched off. The patch requires about 1000 times less power to perch than it does to hover, offering to dramatically extend the operational life of the robot. Reducing the robot's power requirements is critical for the researchers, as they work to integrate onboard batteries on untethered RoboBees.