Don’t worry. Next time you feel something crawling up your arm, it’s almost definitely an ordinary bug, and probably not a tiny robot… but that reality is not too far off in the future. Scientists have developed a new technology that allows itty bitty robots to fly and “perch” just like bugs, and with this innovation, a lot of possibilities are more available for innovators from all sectors. Watch this video from Science Magazine, discovered over at Popular Science, and learn the ins and outs.
Until I checked this out, I had honestly not thought about the energy output of insects, but it makes sense that those tiny wings carry around a relatively large amount of weight for their size, and that the physics of landing and taking off would have evolved to accommodate these facts. That scientists have figured out how to replicate the process through what equates to static cling also boggles my mind… but hey, I’m just a writer, so most things scientists do on a regular basis is really impressive.
Basically, bugs, birds, and bats have evolved so that they can land on a surface, hang out for long periods of time, and then launch themselves back into flight. These robots do something similar through electroadhesion. The robots have an electrode patch that lets them attach to surfaces with electrostatic energy (think balloon + hair). Right now the robots are only flying and perching on leashes, but once they are ready to fly on their own, this could open all kinds of new avenues for surveillance—both good and bad. Tiny robots like this could monitor nature (and us) as literal flies on the wall.
What do you think? Are you going to start smashing bugs and examining the remains for wiring? Tell us in the comments below!
Image: Science Magazine