A fairy-like robot that flies with the aid of both wind and light has been developed by researchers from Finland’s Tampere University.

As part of their aptly named Flying Aero-robots based on Light Responsive Materials Assembly (FAIRY) project, the researchers created a dandelion-seed inspired, polymer-assembly, light-controlled robot that flies using the wind.

Source: Jianfeng Yang/Tampere UniversitySource: Jianfeng Yang/Tampere University

"Superior to its natural counterparts, this artificial seed is equipped with a soft actuator. The actuator is made of light-responsive liquid crystalline elastomer, which induces opening or closing actions of the bristles upon visible light excitation," explained the researchers.

The so-called FAIRY robot, which is light weight, can float easily in the air directed by the wind for long distances, according to its developers. Further, the FAIRY robot can be powered and controlled by a light source like a laser beam or a light emitting diode (LED).

What this means, according to researchers, is that light can alter the shape of the tiny FAIRY robot’s structure, making it possible for the robot to adapt manually to wind direction and force by altering its shape. Furter, a light beam can also be employed to control the take-off and landing functions of the polymer assembly.

The researchers, who are eyeing the FAIRY robot for applications such as artificial pollination, have detailed their work in the article, Dandelion‐Inspired, Wind‐Dispersed Polymer‐Assembly Controlled by Light, which appears in the journal Advanced Science.

For more information on the FAIRY robot, watch the accompanying video that appears courtesy of Tampere University.

To contact the author of this article, email mdonlon@globalspec.com