Flapping Insect-Sized Robots Operate Without Motors, Gears But Still Work in Hazardous Environment | Science Times

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(Photo : YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP via Getty Images) Japan's electronics parts maker Rohm demonstrates a remote controlled flying paper crane "Origami", weighing only 31g, at the annual International Robot Exhibition in Tokyo on December 3, 2015.

Typical micro flying robots use gears, motors, and other complex transmission systems that add to their complexity, weight, and dynamic effects that are unnecessary. Engineering & Technology reported that researchers from the University of Bristol developed a new drive system for flapping autonomous robots using a novel method of electromechanical zipping that does not need motors or engines.

Researchers said that this new advance in technology offers smaller, lighter, and more effective insect-sized robots that can be used for environmental monitoring, deployment in hazardous environments, as well as search and rescue missions.

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(Photo: YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP via Getty Images) Japan's electronics parts maker Rohm demonstrated a remote-controlled flying paper crane "Origami," weighing only 31g, at the annual International Robot Exhibition in Tokyo on December 3, 2015.

Insect-Inspired Drive System for Micro Flying Robots

Researchers from Bristol's Faculty of Engineering took inspiration from flying insects to successfully demonstrate an artificial muscle system which they call the Liquid-amplified Zipping Actuator (LAZA), TechXplore reported. The team, led by robotics Professor Jonathan Rossiter, wrote in their study that it allowed the robot to achieve wing motion even without using rotating parts or gears.

The LAZA system simplifies the flapping mechanism of the wings that will enable future mini-robots to flap up and down, researchers explained. The paper, "Liquid-Amplified Zipping Actuators for Micro-Air Vehicles With Transmission-Free Flapping," published in Science Robotics, demonstrated how the LAZA system enabled the flapping wings of the insect-sized robots to provide more power than an insect of the same weight to fly across the room.

Moreover, they also demonstrated how the robot delivers a consistent flapping motion of over one million cycles, which can help in long-haul flights. They expect the LAZA system to be adopted to make a wide range of autonomous insect-sized flying robots in the future.

Study lead author Dr. Tim Helps, one of the LAZA system developers, said that they were able to create a robot with better performance with a simpler design because they used electrostatic forces on the wing rather than on some complex transmission system. Also, it resulted in a new class of low-cost, lightweight micro flying robots that can be used for off-shore inspection.

Professor Rossiter added that the LAZA system opens doors for autonomous micro flying robots that can perform in hazardous environments and help in critical tasks, like plant pollination and finding people in collapsed buildings.

Robots Inspired From Nature

Humans have come a long way in developing robots that now many scientists have taken inspiration from nature, particularly in birds and insects that have mastered the skill of flying millions of years back. Indeed, evolution has solved a number of problems and weaknesses in many species, and humans are trying to harness that skill to make advanced technologies.

Engineers and scientists found that the process of adaptation to nature is a good inspiration for the innovation, design, and perfection of novel technology. They studied the structure and behavior of animals to create higher efficient robots and machines. Here are some of the robots that were developed inspired by nature according to Explore Biotech:

  • Snakebots
  • Bipedal Ostrich Legs
  • Robirds
  • Water Striders
  • Batbot
  • RoboBees
  • BionicANTS
  • Octobot
  • MantaDroid
  • Gecko-inspired robots

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