Posts Tagged ‘Micro-Drones’

Tiny robot duplicates the flight of bees

May 7, 2013

When I was a boy, people used to say that according to known scientific principles, it was impossible for a bumblebee to fly.  I don’t know whether that was true or not.  But now Harvard scientists have created tiny flying robots that duplicate the flight of bees.  They call them RoboBees, although they look more like flying dragonflies or mosquitos to me.

The most obvious use for a flying insect-like robot is as a micro-drone, searching collapsed buildings for survivors, sampling chemicals or radioactivity in industrial disaster areas and spying out hidden enemy soldiers or terrorists.

A friend of mine e-mailed me several weeks ago about a report the Department of Homeland Security already had micro-drones in operation, conducting surveillance with tiny video cameras and taking DNA samples.   I wouldn’t put it past the Department of Homeland Security to do such things, but the technology has to go way beyond what the Harvard scientists did before such things are possible.

The RoboBee is attached to a tether, which provides an electric power source and enables the scientists to guide the device.  A true micro-drone would need its own power source, its own sensors and a radio-controlled guidance system if not a computer processing system.  If all these things were possible, you wouldn’t really need the ability to fly.  You could have spider-like miniature spy robots like those in the SF movie Minority Report.

One of the scientists said that RoboBees might someday serve as plant pollinators if the natural bee population is destroyed by Colony Collapse Syndrome.   What this implies is that it may not be feasible to save the world’s actual bees from destruction, but it would be possible to replace them with artificial bees.  The RoboBees wouldn’t make honey, though.