RoboBee Microrobot Can Now Dive, Swim and Burst Out of the Water

Posted on October 25, 2017

Harvard SEAS researchers have upgraded their RoboBee. It is becoming a little superhero. The tiny robot is now an aerial-aquatic microrobot. It can fly, dive into the water, swim and then propel itself back out of the water. The robot has been given new floating devices that allow it to stabilize on the surface of the water. An internal combustion system ignites to propel the little RoboBee out of the water and back into the air.

Yufeng Chen, who was a graduate student in the Microrobotics Lab at SEAS when the research was conducted and is first author of the paper, says in the announcement, "This is the first microrobot capable of repeatedly moving in and through complex environments. We designed new mechanisms that allow the vehicle to directly transition from water to air, something that is beyond what nature can achieve in the insect world."

Elizabeth Farrell Helbling, graduate student in the Microrobotics Lab and co-author of the paper, says, "Because the RoboBee has a limited payload capacity, it cannot carry its own fuel, so we had to come up with a creative solution to exploit resources from the environment. Surface tension is something that we have to overcome to get out of the water, but is also a tool that we can utilize during the gas collection process."

Here is a video of the aerial-aquatic RoboBee in action:

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