Hybrid robot takes a swim, then explodes into flight

  • Image credit: Yufeng Chen, E. Farrell Helbling, and Hongqiang Wang
  • Image credit: Yufeng Chen, E. Farrell Helbling, and Hongqiang Wang
Date:27 October 2017 Tags:, , ,

A new hybrid robot, can take to the air even after plunging into water. And it might just the future of small robotics.

By John Wenz

In a study published in Science Robotics, researcher YuFeng Chen of Harvard and his coauthors outline the insect-inspired bot, which uses a combination of slick polymers and jets to propel itself easily out of water and back to the air.

When the hybrid robot goes underwater, compartments within the body take in water, allowing this robo-bee it to sink. The robot then turn swater into hydrogen and oxygen, which it uses to propel itself back up to the air.

“Once the chamber is filled with oxyhydrogen, we ignite the gas to generate an explosion,” Chen and coauthor Elizabeth Farrell Helbling said in a joint email interview with Popular Mechanics. “The explosion impulsively pushes the robot out of water. The explosion acts instantaneously, like a cannonball launched out of a cannon.”

Here’s a look at the hybrid robot taking off:

Hybrid robot takes a swim, then explodes into flight

Once it’s back up in the air, the hybrid robot is free to flap away with its honeybee-inspired wings. While the mini-machine mostly mimics insect flight, there are stabilising controllers to add a little boost. Chen and Helbling say that the bot takes additional cues from zooplankton species that “flap” in the water for locomotion in aquatic terrain.

The hybrid robots are small, only able to carry a payload up to one gram, but the researchers made the most of that. There’s a camera, a magnetometer, and a gyroscope on-board. The bots could be used in search-and-rescue efforts to find trapped accident victims. They could even be used in close-up studies of animals in their natural environment. Chen and Helbling say the bots could also be used to monitor algae levels across a lake. The robots could repeatedly dive in and sample the water.

“In the future, we think that hazardous environment exploration would be a useful application for this robot, where humans cannot safely enter and the space may be too complex or constrained for larger robots,” they say.

From: PM USA