Bees. The punchline to the title is bees carrying sensors like little baby bee backpacks. We would run out of fingers counting the robots which emulate naturally evolved creatures, but we believe there is a lot of merit to pirating natural designs, but researchers at the University of Washington cut out the middle-man and put their sensors right on living creatures. They measured how much a bee could lift, approximately 105 milligrams, then built a sensor array lighter than that. Naturally, batteries are holding back the design, and the rechargeable lithium-ion is more than half of the weight.
When you swap out brushless motors for organics, you gain and lose some things. You lose the real-time control, but you increase the runtime. You lose the noise, but you also lose the speed. You increase the range, but you probably wind up visiting the same field over and over. If your goal is to monitor the conditions of flowering crops, you may be ready to buy and install, but for the rest of us, dogs are great for carrying electronics. Oh yes. Cats are not so keen. Oh no.
One of humankind’s dreams has always been to fly like a bird. For a hacker, an achievable step along the path to that dream is to make an ornithopter — a machine which flies by flapping its wings. An RC controlled one would be wonderful, controlled flight is what everyone wants. Building a flying machine from scratch is a big enough challenge, and a better jumping-off point is to make a rubber band driven one first.
I experimented with designs which are available on the internet, to learn as much as possible, but I started from scratch in terms of material selection and dimensions. You learn a lot about flight through trial and error, and I’m happy to report that in the end I achieved a great little flyer built with a hobby knife and my own two hands. Since then I’ve been looking back on what made that project work, and it’s turned into a great article for Hackaday. Let’s dig in!
Continue reading “Scratch-Built Ornithopter: Here’s How I Flapped My Way to Flight”
We’re actually going to link to an old post from back in February because we think it’s equally as impressive as the most recent work. This is a 3D printed ornithopter powered by a rubber band (translated). The frame is much like a traditional rubber band plane. The difference is that after winding it up it doesn’t spin a propeller. The flapping of the four plastic membrane wings makes it fly like magic. Seriously, check out the demo below… we almost posted this as “Real or Fake?” feature if we hadn’t seen similar offerings a couple of years back.
The flight lasts a relatively long time when considering the quick winding before launch is all that powered it. But the most recent offerings (translated) from the site include the motorized ornithopter design seen above. It carries a small Lithium cell for continuous flight. These designs have a 3D printed gear system which makes them a bit more complicated, but brings steering and remote control to the party. If you want one of your own they’re working on a small run of kits. We figure it’d be a lot more fun to prototype and print your own. Sure, it’s reinventing the wheel. But it’s a really cool wheel!
Continue reading “Amazing flight of a 3D printed rubber band powered ornithopter”
DARPA has awarded an extension to AeroVironment for their work on the Nano Air Vehicle project. The prototype seen above, called Mercury, is an ornithopter which means it flaps it’s wings. It is the first to show controlled hovering. Look closely, there’s no rudder or tail. Mercury uses the two wings for both lift and control. Ornithopters themselves aren’t new, we’ve even covered them before. Usually they use the flapping wings for propulson and a tail to steer as they travel like an airplane. We would really love to see some detail shots of Mercury.
There was a little interest in Graham’s 3D scanning probe, but this is what he is normally using his tiny CNC machine for: manufacturing components for a tiny RC ornithopter. The scale of this thing is amazing. From the tiny gear train to the 0.5mm carbon spars the frame is constructed from. The rudder control only weighs one gram and the entire device comes in at 17 grams.
Continue reading “12″ RC ornithopter”
The DelFly project has been busy since the last time we checked in on them. The Dutch team started 13 years ago and produced the smallest camera-carrying drone, and an autonomous tiny ornithopter. However, that ornithopter — now five years old — had to use some traditional control surfaces and a tail like an airplane which was decidedly not fruit fly-like. Now they’ve solved those problems and have announced the DelFly Nimble, a 13 inch and 1-ounce ornithopter. You can see the Nimble in the video below.
The close emulation of a real fly means the thing looks distinctly insect-like in flight. The dual wings use Mylar and form an X configuration. They flap about 17 times per second. A fully charged battery — remember, the whole thing weighs an ounce — lasts five minutes. With an efficient speed of 3 meters per second, the team claims a flight range of over 1 kilometer with a peak speed that can reach 7 meters per second. It can even take a payload, as long as that payload weighs 4 grams or less.
Continue reading “Robotic Fruit Fly Won’t Eat Your Fruit”
We’ve become used to seeing some beautiful hand-made creations at the smaller end of the flying machine scale, tiny aircraft both fixed and rotary wing. An aircraft that weighs a few grams is entirely possible to build, such have been the incredible advances in component availability.
But how much smaller can a working aircraft be made? Given a suitable team and budget, how about into the milligrams? [Dr. Sawyer Fuller] and his team at the University of Washington have made an ornithopter which may be the lightest aircraft yet made, using a piezoelectric drive to flap flexible wings. That in itself isn’t entirely new, but whereas previous efforts had relied on a tether wire supplying electricity, the latest creation flies autonomously with its power supplied by laser to an on-board miniature solar cell that protrudes above the craft on its wires.
Frustratingly Dr. Fuller’s page on the machine is lighter on detail than we’d like, probably because they are saving the juicy stuff for a big reveal at a conference presentation. It is however an extremely interesting development from a technical perspective, as well as opening up an entirely new front in the applications for flying machines. Whatever happens, we’ll keep you posted.
You can see the craft in the video below the break, and if you’re interested lies with more conventional tiny machines take a look at the creator of a 2.9g Mustang model.
Continue reading “Laser-Powered Flying Machine Weighs Milligrams”