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Fly, Robot, Fly

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1 Author(s)

There is no more rewarding moment for roboticists than when they first see their creations begin to twitch with a glimmer of life. For me, that moment of paternal pride came a year ago this month, when my artificial fly first flexed its wings and flew. It began when I took a stick-thin winged robot, not much larger than a fingertip, and anchored it between two taut wires, rather like a miniature space shuttle tethered to a launchpad. Next I switched on the external power supply. Within milliseconds the carbon-fiber wings, 15 millimeters long, began to whip forward and back 120 times per second, flapping and twisting just like an actual insect's wings. The fly shot straight upward on the track laid out by the wires. As far as I know, this was the first flight of an insect-size robot.

Published in:

Spectrum, IEEE  (Volume:45 ,  Issue: 3 )