A team from the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) created small drones inspired by the anatomy of insects. The goal is to give robots the ability to operate in small, tight spaces, and to increase their resistance to collisions.
The idea of creating an “insect drone” was born when Professor YuFeng Chen, responsible for the project, questioned the current model of drone. “They are usually very large. Most of their applications involve flying outdoors. The question is, can you create robots on an insect scale that can move in very complex and cluttered spaces?”
Upon questioning, the group created a class of flexible drones, similar to artificial muscles. The prototype, which weighs only 0.6 grams, has thin rubber cylinders that are coated with carbon nanotubes, which compress and lengthen the cylinders. The movement causes the drone’s wings to flap almost 500 times per second.
According to Yufeng, the idea is to use drones for biology and biophysics studies to try to better understand the anatomy and flight of insects. Thus, in the future, the machines will be able to pollinate crops.
The experiment follows a series of attempts by MIT to develop tiny drones. Last year, researchers were already working on tailor-made chips for bee-sized machines, with the aim of helping vehicles navigate remote or inaccessible locations.