WATCH: 'Robot Flies' Learn To Stick The Landing
A team of scientists has developed "robot flies" about the size of a quarter that can perch on almost any surface.
The flies were developed at Harvard's , where researchers look to Mother Nature for design inspiration. For years, they have been working on fly-sized drones that could be deployed in groups. The drones could, in theory, be outfitted with cameras and provide multiple vantage points of a disaster, or link up to make an improvised communications network.
The roboflies work, but they also suck up a lot of energy staying airborne. They currently get power from wires attached to the ground, according to a paper in the journal Science.
To try and make the little robots more energy efficient, researchers have figured out how to make them perch on surfaces. Perching is up to a thousand times more energy-efficient than hovering, the researchers say. Perfecting the perch could dramatically lengthen the time that roboflies can operate in the field.
The perching works using static electricity. Each drone carries a tiny copper electrode on its head. When the electrode is energized, it creates a static charge that sticks the robot to a surface. Turning off the electrode sends the little drone back into the air.
And it's effective most of the time: Occasionally a drone misjudged the landing and fell helplessly to the ground.
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