The last time dragonflies of this size roamed the earth,
dinosaurs were still about 100 million years down the line.
Insects can't get that big anymore because there simply isn't
enough oxygen in the air to keep them going. That's why we
have robots: to resurrect freakishly large bugs and make them
do our bidding.
Festo — a company that invents amazing bio-inspired
robots out of nowhere — have just announced BionicOpter: a
scarily impressive robotic dragonfly.
With a wingspan of 70 cm and a body length of 48 cm, the
model dragonfly weighs just 175 grams. The wings consist of a
carbonfiber frame and a thin foil covering. The structure is made
of flexible polyamide and terpolymer. The small ribcage houses
the battery, nine servo motors, and a high-performance ARM
microcontroller — all installed in the smallest of spaces, just like
the sensors and wireless modules.
Up and down, forward, backwards, and to the side, the flapping wing design of the BionicOpter enables it
to fly in all directions in space and hover in mid-air, just like a helicopter. Unlike a helicopter, though, the
dragonfly does not need to tilt forward to generate forward thrust. This means that it can fly horizontally, as
well as float like a glider. Its lightweight design means it is able to start autonomously.
Later this year, some of the world's most
advanced humanoid robots (and their human
masters) will gather for the DARPA Robotics
Challenge (DRC) — a competition where the
robots will attempt to perform a series of complex
tasks in a disaster response scenario. The highly
anticipated event is still several months away, but
teams will have to show that their robots can
perform adequately in a computer simulation in
June. Teams are working frantically on their robots
and simulations, and while some groups operate in
total secrecy, others like Team DRC-Hubo are eager
to show off their progress.
The DRC will consist of eight tasks, including
some that are highly complex — such as driving a
vehicle or climbing a ladder. Any one of these activities would be difficult to prepare for
individually — let alone altogether — which means that, if the robots prove successful at
even some of the tasks, the DRC will be considered a major milestone for robotics. It will
also serve to showcase the practicality of the humanoid form-factor which some have
dismissed as expensive research projects unfit for real world use.
Team DRC-Hubo is a consortium of several universities, including Drexel University
and KAIST's HuboLab (and its spin-off RAINBOW Co., which markets its robot
Cool tidbits herein provided by
www.plasticpals.com, http://www.robots-dreams.com, and other places.
24 SERVO 06.2013