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Hybrid Flying Robots

October 26, 2017

Tiny hybrid robots could conduct rescue missions in the air and sea.

Transcript

The tiny aerial-aquatic robot. (Yufeng Kevin Chen, E. Farrell Helbling, and Hongqiang Wang)

The tiny aerial-aquatic robot. (Yufeng Kevin Chen, E. Farrell Helbling, and Hongqiang Wang)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

A tiny hybrid robot. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Imagine tiny robots that can take off from land, fly above water, survey a disaster area, and then descend into the water to search for survivors. Or conduct research. Inspired by the flight of insects, Harvard roboticist Kevin Chen and his colleagues have designed a hybrid robot that flies through both air and water.

KEVIN CHEN (Harvard University):

By doing computational studies, we realized that flapping in air and flapping in water can be very similar.

HIRSHON:

This means the same robotic actuators can be used to control flapping in both air and water. But since water is one thousand times heavier than air, the wings just have to be slowed down underwater. The researchers write in Science Robotics that surface tension posed a major challenge for the tiny robot during water takeoffs, so they created a buoyancy system that forces it upwards and out of the water. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard