Sep 062010
 

Auto Differential for Tiny Flying Robots

Micro Air Vehicles (MAVs) are in development at various research institutes and aerospace firms worldwide

with an eye toward someday being used in applications such as search and rescue operations, environmental monitoring, or exploration of hazardous environments… or spying, as seems to be the case with all things micro. Like insects, many of these MAVs fly by flapping a set of wings, so they need to be designed to cope with crosswinds or potential wing damage. Engineers at Harvard University have created a tiny automobile-style differential, to keep the two wings generating the same amount of torque. The device is literally one one-millionth the size of what you’d find in your car.

“The drivetrain for an aerial microrobot shares many characteristics with a two-wheel-drive automobile,” said Pratheev S. Sreetharan, a graduate student in Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “Both deliver power from a single source to a pair of wheels or wings. But our PARITy differential generates torques up to 10 million times smaller than in a car, is 5 millimeters long, and weighs about one-hundredth of a gram.” PARITy is an acronym for Passive Aeromechanical Regulation of Imbalanced Torques.

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