back to article Tiny fly-inspired RoboBee takes flight at Harvard

A quartet of Harvard University reseachers have designed, manufactured, and flown a tiny, fly-inspired aerial robot that could be the forerunner of swarms of drosophilistic drones. To put their achievement in boffinary terms, as did the authors in the abstract of their paper, published in the latest issue of the jounal Science …


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  1. Persona non grata

    If you want to be paranoid about drones

    These are the ones that should worry you.

    Excellent piece of engineering work though, congrats to those involved.

    1. Martin Budden

      Re: If you want to be paranoid about drones

      Yup, any robot small enough to fly itself up my nostril is quite worrying.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If you want to be paranoid about drones

        Nostril... 3cm wingspan.. poor you.

        1. Great Bu

          Nostril... 3cm wingspan

          ...perhaps lay off the coke this weekend ?

        2. Martin Budden

          Re: If you want to be paranoid about drones

          If you want to laugh at my nostrils go right ahead.

  2. C 18

    Watch out...

    ...for rogue deployments of this technology...

    ...which will surely meet the deadly force of...

    ...wait for it...

    (oh dear, I can't believe I'm typing this)

    ...SWAT teams!

  3. Dr. Mouse

    Very interesting stuff. Kudos to them.

    They don't seem to have got the hang of landing, yet, do they? Their approach seems to be "turn it off", so it drops and bounces across the floor.

    1. Kubla Cant


      I bet it can't walk on the ceiling, either.

      1. MrT

        Can it... out which side of a window is open?

        And if it loses uplink to control, does it hold station by flying around the ceiling light fitting endlessly until comms is re-established?

  4. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Very impressive.

    We've seen things like this before they have been much bigger and at least some bits were bought in.

    At this scale everything has be designed and a mfg process worked out to make it on a reasonable scale.

    In amongst the various concerns about surveillance drones might I also suggest an anti-fly swarm that can engage in fly-on-fly combat to stop any airborne critter pestering you?

    A sort of mosquito squadron.

    1. Jason_H

      Re: Very impressive.

      And inter-office conflicts will soon have a much more interesting way of being settled... Bee Wars!

      Who can program the 'cleverest' - 'meanest' - attack squadrons!

      All From Your Desktop (tm)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Very impressive.

      "A sort of mosquito squadron."

      OR, the anti-mosquito laser curtain that has been worked on.

    3. Don Jefe

      Re: Very impressive.

      A desktop fan will be more than sufficient to blow them away. I've got some small R/C planes that weigh about .6oz and a good gust from the central air will blow them off course or force them down. All you need to defeat these little guys is an oscillating desk fan. Alternatively, if you wanted to play fair you could use a small R/C helicopter and just fly over them.

  5. Elmer Phud

    A Jeff Noon moment

    Blurbflies are born.

    1. Triggerfish

      Re: A Jeff Noon moment

      I was thinking more of the Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson.

  6. Graham Marsden
    Black Helicopters

    Prior art from Judge Dredd...

    ... Spy in the Sky microdrones

  7. Cameron Colley

    Could you power them through inductance?

    Rather than having a tether could they, instead, have an induction loop? That may not be ideal for long-distance surveillance but cold allow for testing and some use cases such as searching inside confined spaces.

    1. Martin Budden

      Re: Could you power them through inductance?

      If they can be made even smaller and/or they can be made with neutral buoyancy, would it be possible for them to power themselves from ambient EMF?

  8. Sirius Lee

    And still got a tether

    I'm sure it's all very impressive but it will be much more impressive if the tether doesn't have to be there, it has circuitry on-board that allows it to navigate to useful locations autonomously, it can re-fuel, it can carry a useful payload and has the has power to do all these things.

    I'm sure it's sufficiently impressive to those in the know but ability to fly has been known for a long time. Equally, high frequency oscillations driving systems are not new. However an efficient and small scale fuel system that has high energy density and is able to be replenished from the environment would be something to write home about. If it's small thing that can sustain flight while tethered not so much, in my opinion.

    1. Pet Peeve

      Re: And still got a tether

      Moving power and control onboard may be doable, if those nano-batteries pan out, and they can bake all the control logic onto an ASIC.

      Or, if they can power them with plant nectar and teach them to recognize flowers, we can say SUCK IT, colony collapse disorder!

  9. Rick Brasche

    and taken out by the slightest breeze

    as was explained on the box of a toy helicopter:

    "these are basically 1/40th scale helicopters. Full-sized helicopters can't fly well in high winds-if a full size helicopter has difficulty in 50 mph wind,your model will have difficulty with 1-2mph. There's nothing to be done about it."

    A lot more power and wing area that can be used to fight wind than a robofly and they're useless at anything stronger than the flatulence after Taco Bell. Turn on a decent fan (or hell, the A/C) and these "drones" are at the mercy of the system.

    Increase the power through some sort of future-wish battery and motor tech? People will hear the flying dentist drill from two closed doors away.

    AAA-CHOO! and the latest snooper pastes itself against the wall...Hopefully not carrying some sort of antipersonnel chemical agents when ya swat it.

  10. Euripides Pants
    Thumb Up

    Easily defeated... flypaper!

    1. Francis Boyle Silver badge



      PS, won't someone tell this guy about El Reg standard units. I've no idea how big a US one cent coin is. Now if there had been a stick of linguine in the frame. . .

      1. Euripides Pants

        Re: Or

        "I've no idea how big a US one cent coin is."

        Its a little bigger than a dime.....

  11. This post has been deleted by its author

  12. Neoc

    Reg headline

    I can just the headline in El Reg when they succeed in removing the wires:

    "Look Ma, No Hands!"

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