June 20, 2012
Insect Sized Robot Drones Soon To Be Reality
|In the future micro air vehicles -- operating robotic insects -- will be ubiquitous. By 2030, the US military envisions swarms of “spy flies” equipped with sensors and microcameras to detect enemies, nuclear weapons or victims buried in rubble. With (or without) recent legislation, such robots will also be used domestically.|
In the near future, the real high-tech story of surveillance drones is going on at a much smaller level, as tiny remote controlled vehicles based on insects are already likely being deployed.
Incremental shrinking technology has now led to a range of miniature drones, or micro air vehicles (MAVs), based on the same physics used by flying insects, have been presented to the public.
In 2007 reports of bizarre flying objects hovering above anti-war protests sparked accusations that the U.S. government was accused of secretly developing robotic insect spies.
Harvard's Monolithic Bee unveiled earlier this year, is an example of how robotic technology is shrinking flying micro robots.
|Microdrone insect robots|
Image Source: Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
Now the military drones in development at Wright Patterson Airforces "microaviary" are designed to replicate the flight mechanics of moths, hawks and other inhabitants of the natural world. “We’re looking at how you hide in plain sight,” said Greg Parker, an aerospace engineer with the facility.
The New York Times reports,
A tiny helicopter is buzzing menacingly as it prepares to lift off in the Wright-Patterson aviary, a warehouse-like room lined with 60 motion-capture cameras to track the little drone’s every move. The helicopter, a footlong hobbyists’ model, has been programmed by a computer to fly itself. Soon it is up in the air making purposeful figure eights.If creating robotic insects presents too many challenges, other researchers are at work creating cyborg insects. Using a real insect is much easier than starting from scratch to create a device that works like an insect, Case Western Reserve chemistry professor teamed up with graduate student Michelle Rasmussen, biology professor Roy E. Ritzmann, chemistry professor Irene Lee and biology research assistant Alan J. Pollack to develop an implantable biofuel cell to provide usable power for the various sensors, recording devices, or electronics used to control an insect cyborg.
“What it’s doing out here is nothing special,” said Dr. Parker, the aerospace engineer. The researchers are using the helicopter to test technology that would make it possible for a computer to fly, say, a drone that looks like a dragonfly. “To have a computer do it 100 per cent of the time, and to do it with winds, and to do it when it doesn’t really know where the vehicle is, those are the kinds of technologies that we’re trying to develop,” Dr. Parker said.
The push right now is developing “flapping wing” technology, or recreating the physics of natural flight, but with a focus on insects rather than birds. Birds have complex muscles that move their wings, making it difficult to copy their aerodynamics. Designing a an insect is hard, too, but their wing motions are simpler. “It’s a lot easier problem,” Dr. Parker said.”
SOURCE The New York Times
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Tags: ACLU, civil liberties. micro robot, combat drones, Cyborg Insect, drones, insect robot, Insect Spy, robotics, robots
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