Robot Moth Is Learning to Fly Like A Real Moth

Harvard University has had the flying robot insect market covered for a long time. However, their robot bee, while cool, was starting to bum them out. They wanted to put the battery and brain on the robocritter and have it fly around without a tether. Technology just wasn’t moving fast enough for them, so they’ve picked a different bug, this time a moth.

The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University is known for its Flying Winged Micro Air Vehicles or FWMAV. Which is a pretty good example of what happens when you let engineers name things. This FWMAV, weighs in at a hefty 3grams and has a 16mm wingspan. It also has propulsion, sensors, communication, brains, and power on board. Pretty impressive, the heaviest item is the motor!

The moth can produce 4g of thrust, and they’ve shown it capable of staying aloft once launched with a small catapult. Since they’ve proven that it can at least fly, the next steps are to figure out the dynamics of moth-based flight. Right now it stays pointed in the right direction with a very tiny tail fin like on an airplane. Real moths manage this feat with independent wing control, which the robot doesn’t have yet.

It will be a while before a we’ll see robot moths bumping into our computer monitors a night, stealing our passwords, but it’s a really cool exercise in robot miniaturization.

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Honey bee temperature logger tracks internal hive movement

Apparently bees tend to use different areas of the hive throughout the year. All we know is not to mess with them. [Max Justicz], on the other hand, does exactly that at his high school. He built a whether resistant solar powered multi-point temperature logger to do such things. The logger is designed to track heat movement within the hive throughout the year. Bees can be tracked like this because they generate a good amount of heat, some even use it to kill off predators.

Building weather resistant electronics is no picnic. You have to deal with rubber O rings, cable glands and clunky waterproof connectors. [Max] shows the whole process of mounting the various components into the enclosure. A solar panel feeds an Ardunio Mega, charging electronics, and SD card shield. With a 1GB SD card this bugger is in for a long haul. The 6600mAh battery should keep it running excessively long though. We’d cut the fat a bit though and swap out that Mega for something less power hungry, but going super low power can get a bit fancy. That mega is powerful enough to incorporate every other bee project we have here.

[Max] has yet to install the logger in his high school’s apiary but will update with logs once he can furnish them. We can’t wait to see the patina it develops over the seasons.

Counting bees

This is the bee counter which [Hydronics] designed. It’s made to attach to the opening for a hive, and will count the number of bees entering and exiting. We’re not experienced bee keepers ourselves (in fact we’re more of the mind of getting rid of stinging beasties) but we understand their important role in agriculture and ecosystem so we’re glad someone’s making a nice home for them.

Most of the apparatus is a circuit board lined with reflective sensors. There is a double-row of pin sockets on the top of the board which accepts the Teensy+ which monitors those sensors. The bees must pass below this PCB every time they enter or leave the hive, thereby tripping a sensor. In the video after the break [Hydronics] shows off the system with a netbook used to monitor the output. But it sounds like he has plans for an integrated display system in future versions of the bee counter.

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