What is RoboBee X-Wing?

  • It is essentially a flying machine, which can flap its wings 120 times a second and is half the size of a paperclip, as a report in The Wired describes it.
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    In a recently published paper in Nature, researchers from the Harvard Microrobotics Laboratory in Cambridge have claimed to have made possible the “lightest insect-scale aerial vehicle so far to have achieved sustained, untethered flight.” The robot can sustain a flight for less than a second. Initially, the researchers called this lightest centimetre-sized vehicle, “RoboBee”, but with the current advancement which makes it possible for RoboBee to fly untethered, its name has been upgraded to, “RoboBee X-Wing”.

  • Along with the electronics required to give RoboBee X-Wing its flight, the robot weighs 259 mg and uses 110-120 milliwatts of power using solar energy, matching the “thrust efficiency” of similarly sized insects such as bees. Much like aircraft, the robot is heavier than the air it displaces — a concept referred to as “heavier-than-air flight”. However, when objects become smaller, achieving a heavier-than-air flight becomes more complicated.
  • Studying the mechanisms that insects use to flap their wings and navigate in the air is a matter of interest to biologists. Flapping-wing robots can help in addressing questions related to the evolution of flight, the mechanical basis of natural selection and environmental monitoring. Others are interested in replicating these abilities to build a new array of machines.