RoboFly. Source: Chukewad et al.RoboFly. Source: Chukewad et al.Improving upon the design of insect-inspired microscopic robots, researchers from the University of Washington have developed a new flying microrobot capable of multi-modal locomotion.

Dubbed the RoboFly, the microrobot is reportedly an improvement upon its predecessor, the Robobee, which was developed by researchers from Harvard University. Setting the 74 mg RoboFly apart from similar insect-inspired microrobots is its ability to move through the air, on the ground and to hover over the surface of water, according to its developers. This is due to RoboFly’s flapping wings, which are powered by piezoelectric actuators, enabling it to fly and hover.

Another key difference between RoboFly and similar robots is its unique design, which simplifies the fabrication process. Microrobots are generally assembled using extremely tiny components under a microscope. This mode of fabrication is reportedly difficult with the potential for losing critical components during assembly. As such, RoboFly’s chassis is composed of a single folded sheet of laminate, eliminating the need to assemble several microscopic components.

Researchers believe that the RoboFly could be used for a host of applications including search and rescue missions, infrastructure inspection, agricultural monitoring, and gas leak and hazardous leak detection. Due to its ability to hover over water, the researchers also believe that the technology could be used to search for pollutants in bodies of water.

The research appears in the journal arXiv.

To see an earlier iteration of the RoboFly, watch the accompanying video that appears courtesy of the University of Washington.

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