Miniscule flying robots could be an essential help to solve time-consuming, as well as critical tasks like sniffing out gas leaks. However, they’ve been quite tricky to get off the ground. Any wind-flapping insect-like robot needs a power source, which actually makes them too heavy to take off. However, researchers at the University of Washington might have a solution for it. They have developed a way to transmit power to their flying robotic insect, named RoboFly via laser, which eliminates the necessity of a separate power supply.
The researchers powered the drones using a narrow invisible laser beam aimed at an onboard photovoltaic cell that converts the light energy into electricity. As it’s not enough to power the wings, an extra circuit was added to boost the power from 7 volts to 240 volts. They also added a micro-controller on the same circuit to give the robotic insect control over its own wings.
“The micro-controller acts like a real fly’s brain telling wing muscles when to fire,” said co-author Vikram Iyer. “On RoboFly, it tells the wings things like ‘flap hard now’ or ‘don’t flap.'”
For now, the RoboFly can just take off and land, but the researchers hope to make it hover and fly around soon by steering the laser. However, it’s still a huge development. even a few years ago, a bug size robot drone seemed like something from the sci-fi movie. The finding has been presented in a paper, which the team will present on May 23rd at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Brisbane, Australia.