HARVARD MICROROBOTICS LAB DEVELOPS FIRST INSECT-SIZE ROBOT CAPABLE OF FLYING AND SWIMMING
In 1939, a Russian engineer proposed a “flying submarine” — a vehicle that can seamlessly transition from air to water and back again. While it may sound like something out of a James Bond film, engineers have been trying to design functional aerial-aquatic vehicles for decades with little success. Now, engineers may be one step closer to the elusive flying submarine.
The biggest challenge is conflicting design requirements: aerial vehicles require large airfoils like wings or sails to generate lift while underwater vehicles need to minimize surface area to reduce drag.
To solve this engineers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) took a clue from puffins. The birds with flamboyant beaks are one of nature’s most adept hybrid vehicles, employing similar flapping motions to propel themselves through air as through water.
“Through various theoretical, computational and experimental studies, we found that the mechanics of flapping propulsion are actually very similar in air and in water,” said Kevin Chen, a graduate student in the Harvard Microrobotics Lab at SEAS. “In both cases, the wing is moving back and forth. The only difference is the speed at which the wing flaps.”
Coming from the Harvard Microrobotics Lab, this discovery can only mean one thing: swimming RoboBees.
For the first time, researchers at SEAS have demonstrated a flying, swimming, insect-like robot — paving the way for future duel aerial aquatic robotic vehicles.
Read more: Dive of the RoboBee
The Latest on: Insect-like robot
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