Micro-Scale Drones

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The Bee+ in flight-test mode, showing all four wings operating
The Bee+ in flight-test mode, showing all four wings operating(Credit: University of Southern California (USC)

Tiny robot insects might seem little more than fun, geeky gadgets to some, but the potential for these cyber-critters in areas like search and rescue, agriculture and hazard detection is massive – and so are the hurdles. Power-supplies, onboard-sensors, control and stability are all problematic at the micro-scale. It’s this last issue – stability – that researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) have been working on with their Bee+, drawing inspiration – yet again – from the insect world.

Micro-scale, insect-like flying-robots have been flying around for a while now. There was the DARPA-funded robot fly in 2007 (which just went up and down), for example, and the three-gram (0.1-oz) DelFly Micro in 2008, declared the following year by Guinness Book of Records as the “Smallest camera-equipped aircraft in the world.” But when Harvard’s 80-milligram (0.0028-oz) RoboBee first flew in 2013, it made the DelFly Micro look like an albatross with a brick in its pocket.

It’s the RoboBee format which the USC research team has expanded upon in its Bee+ project, which was submitted to IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters this month. Harvard’s RoboBee was limited in its maneuverability by the fact that it had only one pair of wings . This made flight-control difficult and flight-stability somewhat wiggly. With one pair of wings – each controlled by a tiny 25-mg, piezoelectric actuator – the operators of the RoboBee could influence roll, pitch and thrust, but not yaw.

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About the Common Constitutionalist

Brent, aka The Common Constitutionalist, is a Constitutional Conservative, and advocates for first principles, founders original intent and enemy of progressives. He is former Navy, Martial Arts expert. As well as publisher of the Common Constitutionalist blog, he also is a contributing writer for Political Outcast, Godfather Politics, Minute Men News (Liberty Alliance), Freedom Outpost, the Daily Caller, Vision To America and Free Republic. He also writes an exclusive weekly column for World Net Daily (WND).

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