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Watch the First Laser Powered Robotic Fly!

Researchers at the University of Washington just debuted the first flying robotic insect ever, the aptly-named RoboFly.

Seeing how robots like Atlas are already jogging, you’d be forgiven if you didn’t understand why exactly it took so long to create a realistic insect robot. As the researchers in question explained, power sources for such tiny robots were simply too heavy to allow lift-off with their also tiny, delicate wings.

Enter lasers.

Yes, this RoboFly is powered by lasers. A narrow laser beam is aimed at a small photovoltaic cell which then converts that light to electricity, while another circuit boosts the power from 7 volts to 240 volts. The flying robotic insect also has a tiny brain on the same circuit to control the rhythm of wing flaps.

“Before now, the concept of wireless insect-sized flying robots was science fiction. Would we ever be able to make them work without needing a wire? Our new wireless RoboFly shows they’re much closer to real life,” proudly explained the co-author of the project, the assistant professor Sawyer Fuller.

On May 23rd, the creators of the RoboFly will reveal more of their findings at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation that’s being held in Brisbane, Australia. Hopefully, their research will pave the way to the swarms of robotic bees that will help us survive in 2036.

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