Flying robotic insect slated to explore Mars

January 16, 2002 | Source: EE Times

NASA is backing a research project to build toy-sized flying robots, modeled on the entomology of insects, that can hover like helicopters. Patented as “entomopters,” the robots are on the drawing board of University of Missouri professor Kakkattukuzhy Isaac.
NASA is sponsoring a large team of diverse researchers on the project, titled “Planetary Exploration Using Biomimetics.” Isaac’s part is the wing design and aerodynamic analysis to ensure that sufficient lift will be provided. Researchers at Georgia Tech Research Institute are concentrating on propulsion, as are colleagues at the University of Cambridge (England) and the Ohio Aerospace Institute.

“We are investigating building flying robots modeled on insects because insects create a higher amount of lift than conventional aircraft, enabling them to fly at low speeds,” Isaac said.

The military is pursuing parallel research, sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, into “micro air vehicles” that could hover so that they could investigate hard-to-reach places and enter hazardous zones.