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JUL/AUG 2013  

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Robotic insects make first controlled flight

Half the size of a paper clip, weighing less than a tenth of a gram, an insect took flight at a Harvard robotics laboratory last year. It leapt a few inches, hovered for a moment on fragile, flapping wings, and then sped along a preset route through the air.


The demonstration of the first controlled flight of an insect-sized robot is the culmination of more than a decade’s work, led by researchers at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard.

Inspired by the biology of a fly, with submillimeter-scale anatomy and two wafer-thin wings that flap almost invisibly, 120 times per second, the tiny device represents the absolute cutting edge of micromanufacturing and control systems, according to the researchers.

The robotic insect takes advantage of the pop-up manufacturing technique where sheets of various laser-cut materials are layered and sandwiched together into a thin, flat plate that folds up like a child’s pop-up book into the complete electromechanical structure.

Watch the video below to see the insect in action and click here to read more.