BUZZ ABOUT ROBOBee
Harvard has been working on a robotic bee for five years
now. Five years is a long time in the fast-paced world of
robotics, but when you're trying to design a controllable flying
robot that weighs less than one tenth of one gram from
scratch, getting it to work properly is a process that often has
to wait for technology to catch up to the concept.
The RoboBee has been able to take off under its own
power for years, but roboticists have only recently figured out
how to get it to both take off and go where they want it to.
Or at least, they're getting very, very close.
With the addition of two small control actuators
underneath the wings, RoboBee has been endowed with the
ability to pitch and roll which is two-thirds of what it needs
to be a fully controllable robotic insect. These maneuvers are
currently open-loop which means that the RoboBee isn't
getting any sensor feedback; it's just been instructed to steer
itself in one particular way (which it does obediently until it
violently crashes into something).
The reason that RoboBee hasn't learned to yaw yet is
because all three axes of motion (yaw, pitch, and roll) are
coupled together such that it's difficult to get a pure output
with a pure input. If you try to get the robot to pitch, it's
going to yaw and roll a little bit too, and isolating yaw from
pitch and roll is proving to be particularly tricky. Ongoing
research will develop a feedback controller that can
compensate for this, which should mean that a RoboBee
capable of hovering and fully controllable flight will be buzzing
our way sometime soon.
Coordinated agile robotic insects can be used for a
variety of purposes including: autonomously pollinating a field
of crops; search and rescue (e.g., in the aftermath of a natural
disaster); hazardous environment exploration; military
surveillance; high resolution weather and climate mapping; and
IN A THEATER NEAR YOU
The new movie Robot & Frank features an award winning cast
including Academy Award® nominee Frank Langella, James Marsden, Liv
Tyler, and Academy Award winner Susan Sarandon.
Set in the near future, Frank (a retired cat burglar), has two grown
kids who are concerned he can no longer live alone. They are tempted
to place him in a nursing home until Frank’s son chooses a different
option.Against the old man’s wishes, he buys Frank a walking, talking
humanoid robot programmed to improve his physical and mental health.
What follows is an often hilarious and heartwarming story about finding
friends and family in the most unexpected places.
22 SERVO 12.2012