No matter how hard it flaps its wings, the six-legged DASH+Wings robot modded by engineers at the University of California, Berkeley, can’t fly – and that’s the point. (For the acronym obsessed: DASH stands for dynamic autonomous sprawled hexapod.) Archaeologists have long debated whether the first birds evolved from tree-dwelling gliders or from animals that flapped their primitive wings to run faster. The DASH bot covers ground 90 per cent faster when it has flapping wings, far short of the four-fold boost that a running Archaeopteryx dinosaur would have needed to get airborne. In wind-tunnel glide tests, DASH+Wings did improve lift, but that doesn’t change the verdict: the first true fliers probably evolved from tree-based gliders. – AH
Body length: 100 mm
Wingspan: 300 mm
Weight: 25 g
Video:Click Six-legged DASH+Wings robot to catch DASH+Wings in action.