Scientists have demonstrated untethered, sustained flight of an insect-inspired robot.
The RoboBee X-wing, whose flight was demonstrated in a paper in Nature this week, weighs a mere 259mg and is less than 5cm long. Scientists hope the new little robot could be used for environmental monitoring in confined spaces.
The massive energy requirements of flying vehicles mean that the power sources available (batteries) can be several times the size of an insect-sized robot. Such robots, therefore, need to be tethered to those power supplies.
Solar cells cannot be used as the amount of energy for untethered flight would require light 5-7 times more intense than sunlight.
The new design uses four flapping wings instead of two, to increase the lift force without increasing power requirements. The efficiency is similar to insects of the same size.
Using low voltages to improve the lifetime of the vehicle, the Robobee was able to achieve untethered flight for about half a second. However, the vehicle can carry a larger power supply for future experiments, and further improvements make it seem that continually flying Robobees may soon become a reality.
Organic Good for Honeybees
Organic farming can limit the decline of honeybees, a new study has suggested.
Honeybees are valuable as honey-makers and crop pollinators. In areas that are intensely farmed, they suffer a thin supply of flowers when crops are not in bloom.
Organic farms can provide more resources (pollen/nectar) in the form of 'weeds' and can improve survival directly by not using pesticides.
In the paper, which is published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, the researchers looked at 180 hives over six years in west-central France. They found that, compared to colonies in conventionally farmed areas, the colonies among organic farms had 20% more adult bees, 37% more brood and produced 53% more honey.
Previous research by the same team has found that brood shrinking in periods where the crop is not in bloom can result in lower colony survival in winter.