In a new study published in the journal IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters a team of engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) describes how it created a 650 mg aerial robot powered by four electroluminescent actuators (tiny “soft” motors), each able to generate distinct colors and patterns. This tiny flying bug-bot, the researchers say, “further shows the potential of achieving coordinated swarm flights without using well-calibrated indoor tracking systems.”
In the video immediately above the engineers outline how their “insect-scale” flying lightning bug robot works, noting it was inspired by the ever-whimsical firefly and its ability to use bioluminescent chemical reactions to create light.
“If you think of large-scale robots, they can communicate using a lot of different tools—Bluetooth, wireless, all those sorts of things. But for a tiny, power-constrained robot, we are forced to think about new modes of communication. This is a major step toward flying these robots in outdoor environments where we don’t have a well-tuned, state-of-the-art motion tracking system,” Kevin Chen says in an MIT press release. Chen is the D. Reid Weedon Jr. Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) at MIT and the senior author of the paper.