Scientists have created a robot bee that can rotate – ScienceDaily

Washington State University scientists have created a robot bee that can fly in all directions.

With four wings made of carbon fiber and mylar, and four lightweight motors to control each wing, the Bee++: the prototype is the first to fly stably in all directions. It involves a tricky turning motion with the bees known as a turn++: fully achieving the six degrees of free movement exhibited by a typical flying insect.

Nestor O., Flaherty Associate Professor at WSU’s School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering. Led by Pérez-Arancibia, the researchers report their work in the journal IEEE Transactions on Robotics. Pérez-Arancibia will present the results later this month at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation.

Researchers have been trying to create artificial flying insects for more than 30 years, Perez-Arancibia said. They could one day be used for many applications, including artificial pollination, search and rescue efforts in confined spaces, biological research, or environmental monitoring, including in hostile environments.

But just to get the little robots to take off and land required the development of controllers that work like an insect’s brain.

“It’s a mix of robotic design and control,” he said. “The control is highly mathematical, and you’re designing a kind of artificial brain. Some call it hidden technology, but without those simple minds, nothing would work.”

Researchers first developed a bipedal robot bee, but it was limited in its movement. In 2019, Pérez-Arancibia and two of his graduate students built the first four-armed robot light enough to fly. To perform two maneuvers, known as spins or rolls, the researchers force the front wings to wrap differently than the rear wings to roll, and the right wings to wrap differently than the left wings to roll, creating a torque that rotates the robot. its two main horizontal axes.

But being able to control a complex tilt is critical, he said. Without it, robots spin out of control, unable to focus on a single point. Then they crash.

“If you can’t control the catfish, you’re too limited,” he said. “If you’re a bee, here’s the flower, but if you can’t control the yawn, you’re spinning all the time trying to get there.”

Having all degrees of motion is also extremely important for evasive maneuvers or tracking objects.

“The system is highly unstable, and the problem is extremely difficult,” he said. “For many years, people had theoretical ideas about how to control catfish, but no one could achieve it because of limitations in activation.”

To make their robot twist in a controlled manner, the researchers took a signal from the insects and moved the wings so that they bend in an inclined plane. They also increased the number of times their robot wings flapped per second from 100 to 160 times per second.

“Part of the solution was the physical design of the robot, and we also came up with a new design for the controller, the brain that tells the robot what to do,” he said.

A bee that weighs 95 mg with a wingspan of 33 millimeters++: it is still larger than real bees, which weigh about 10 milligrams. Unlike real insects, it can fly on its own for about five minutes at a time, so it’s mostly connected to a power source by a cable. Researchers are also working on developing other types of insect robots, including reptiles and water voles.

Former USC graduate students Ryan M. Perez-Arancibia. Benan, Xiufeng Yang, and Ariel A. Calderon co-authored the article. The work was funded by the National Science Foundation and DARPA. The WSU Foundation and the Palouse Club through WSU’s Cougar Cage program also provided support.

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