Dragonfly-sized drone flaps its wings more efficiently than insects
No matter how good our human designs may be, evolution has had a 4-billion-year head start, so there’s no shame in copying off Mother Nature’s homework. Engineers at the University of Bristol have done just that – and even improved on it – developing a tiny flying robot that flaps its wings more efficiently than an insect, using a unique electrostatic “zipping” mechanism.
Drones inspired by birds and insects have been flapping about for years now, like Harvard’s RoboBee or the DelFly Nimble. But while they’re capable of some nifty aerial maneuvers, they usually flap by way of complex transmission systems like gears and motors.
The Bristol team’s new drone uses an artificial muscle system that they call a liquid-amplified zipping actuator (LAZA), which requires no transmission. Each of the dragonfly-sized drone’s wings is made up of an electrode sticking out from between two other smaller electrodes at the base. A high voltage is sent through each of the base…