digest | Robot Bee: flying like a real insect

series: Machines made better by nature.
May 10, 2019


— contents —

~ story
~ videos
~ learning
~ by definition
~ reading


image | above
The robot bee prototype named Bee Plus.

photo: Univ. of Southern California


— story —

Engineers at the Univ. of Southern California have built a flying insect based on the anatomy of a bee. Called the Bee Plus robot: the nature-inspired flying bot weighs 95 milligrams and is the size of a penny.

The tiny bot is similar to Harvard University’s popular RoboBee project from year 2013. RoboBee had 2 wings, Bee Plus has 4 wings — like a real insect. The added wings gives the bot more life-like flying abilities. Each of the wings is driven by an actuator that’s simpler and lighter that the ones used by for RoboBee.

The prototype brings together collective knowledge from: robot design, control theory, aerodynamics, and micro-fabrication. Bee Plus can perch, land, swim, follow a path, and avoid obstacles.

The engineering team lists a range of potential uses for Bee Plus:

  • artificially pollinating flowers
  • robotic swarm research or search + rescue missions
  • taking geological samples
  • measuring gases in the atmosphere
  • surveillance on planet Mars + moons

To achieve these dreams, the researchers will need to overcome this limitation: Bee Plus can only fly when it’s tethered to a power source. They’ve developed a possible solution called ‘‘catalytic artificial muscles’’ — a new type of actuation technology.


images | below
A honey bee gathers pollen while others return to their hive.




watch | video
Prototype robot bee named Bee Plus takes flight.


watch | video
Prototype robot bee named RoboBee takes flight.


watch | video
Tiny flying robot bees.


image | below
The robot bee prototype named RoboBee.

photo: Harvard Univ.



on the web | learning

Harvard Univ. | project: RoboBees


by definition | morphology

(noun) mor · phol · o · gy

The study of the forms of things.
A branch of biology that examines the form of living creatures.


by definition | actuator

An actuator is a part of a machine responsible for moving + controlling a mechanism or system — for example: by opening a valve. In simple terms, it’s a ‘‘mover.’’ An actuator requires a control signal plus a power source. Its power may be an electricity, hydraulic (fluid) pressure, or pneumatic (gas) pressure.

An actuator is a mechanical device takes the movement of its power source (the current of electricity, the pressure of gas or fluid) and directs it — like a steady stream — to move something. It also can be used to apply force. That motion can be any form — such as: blocking, clamping, or ejecting. Actuators are used in robotics and manufacturing — and in devices such as: motors, pumps, switches, and valves.

Developing miniature actuators to move robots the size of an insect — such as robot bees + robot hummingbird — is an engineering challenge.


on the web | learning

actuators: industrial | video
actuators: micro + macro | video
Engineering Insider | actuator



on the web | reading

Digital Trends | Univ. of Southern California’s penny-sized robotic bee
deck: Is the most sci-fi thing you’ll see all week.

the Verge | Robot bees can now dive in + out of water
deck: Using tiny combustible rockets

the Verge | Bee Optimistic: this drone can still pollinate plants even if all the bees die
deck: Meet the artificial pollinators of tomorrow.

NPR | Rise of the Robot Bees
deck: Tiny drones turned into artificial pollinators.



— notes —

USC = University of Southern California
NPR = National Public Radio


[ story file ]

story title: digest | Robot Bee: flying like a real insect
deck: series: Machines made better by nature.
year: 2019
section: digest

[ end of file ]