An early prototype of the RoboBee built by Robert J. Wood’s team at Harvard. Photo: SEAS
A team of researchers from the Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) are developing an insect sized robot that made its first flight last summer. Half the size of a paperclip, weighing less than a tenth of a gram, RoboBee inspired by the biology of a fly and conceived through manufacturing breakthrough and miniaturization.
RoboBees are manufactured through a unique Pop-up manufacturing process developed by the same team that developed the robotic insect. See the video
The unique submillimeter-scale anatomy of RoboBee uses two wafer-thin wings that flap almost invisibly, 120 times per second. At tiny scales, small changes in airflow can have an outsized effect on flight dynamics, and the control system has to react that much faster to remain stable. For the wing ‘muscles’ the tiny robot employs piezoelectric actuators – strips of ceramic that expand and contract when an electric field is applied. Thin hinges of plastic embedded within the carbon fiber body frame serve as joints, and a delicately balanced control system commands the rotational motions, differentially moving the flapping wings to generate directional motion.
The first flights that took place in the summer of 2012 employed a tethered version feeding power and processing from external devices. The next steps in the program will involve integrating the parallel work of different research teams who are working on the brain, the colony coordination behavior, the power source, etc., leading to the evolution of fully autonomous, wireless robotic insects. High energy-density fuel cells must be developed before the RoboBees will be able to fly with more independence.
RoboBee design. Image courtesy of Kevin Ma and Pakpong Chirarattananon.
Applications of the RoboBee type ‘creatures’ could include distributed environmental monitoring, search-and-rescue operations, or assistance with crop pollination, but the materials, fabrication techniques, and components that emerge along the way might prove to be even more significant. The US Air Force is also working on similar technologies, under the Air Force Research Lab Micro-Aviary program. The US Army is also working on micro-bots, through thethe Army Research Laboratory’s (ARL) Micro Autonomous Systems and Technology (MAST) Collaborative Technology Alliance.
According to Robert J. Wood, principal investigator of the National Science Foundation-supported RoboBee project, the lab’s recent breakthroughs in manufacturing, materials, and design have paved the way for the new achievement of RoboBee. “Now that we’ve got this unique platform, there are dozens of tests that we’re starting to do, including more aggressive control maneuvers and landing,” says Wood. The robotic insects also take advantage of the breakthrough pop-up manufacturing technique developed by Wood’s team in 2011.
Through the Pop-Up Manufacturing process (video) sheets of various laser-cut materials are layered and sandwiched together into a thin, flat plate that folds up like a child’s pop-up book into the complete electromechanical structure. The process enabled the team to accelerate prototype development, going through 20 prototypes in a six months period. The pop-up manufacturing process could enable a new class of complex medical devices.
Harvard’s Office of Technology Development, in collaboration with Harvard SEAS and the Wyss Institute, is already in the process of commercializing some of the underlying technologies. The program was supported by the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard.
The RoboBee is designed to evolve into an insect-size fully autonomous robot but at the current phase it is tethered to a power and processing sources. Photo SEAS, Photo courtesy of Kevin Ma and Pakpong Chirarattananon.
Ground based radar systems have gained operational importance as wars became more limited and urban. I-HLS reports. The need to detect and identify targets under any condition has spurred a vast effort to develop more advanced, easier to operate ground based radar systems.
Elta, the fully owned subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is Israel’s radar house. Using its vast experience the company has developed some of the more advanced radar systems like the “Green Pine” phased array radar that is part of the Israeli Arrow system used to protect Israel from ballistic missiles, and the systems that are used on airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft.
But the operations on the ground need advanced radars and Elta has been developing and manufacturing them for many years. In General the ground radars made by Elta can be put into four main categories according to the time of development or “generation”:
The first generation radars are Rotating Analog Radars.
The second generation radars are Rotating Radars with Analog Transmitter and Digital Processing in Receiver.
The third generation radars are non Rotating Radar covering a Sector by Electronic Beam Scanning.
Some of the third generation radars are rotating and more capable and therefore considered to be third and a half Generation.
The fourth Generation is Persistent Surveillance Radar covering instantaneously a sector by Multi-beam.
Elta radars detect targets by Doppler Effect and classify targets by Doppler Frequency.
The family of ground radars uses a “Track before Detect” algorithm to reject moving vegetation bring recognized as legal targets (since the vegetation does not change its distance).
Starting from second Generation, Digital Background Maps can be implemented which allows designating Areas of Interest or Areas of Non-interest to save resources. Alarm Zones within Areas of Interest can also be designated. The Elta ground radars also have a “Rain Algorithm” to enable target detection even in rainy conditions.
The Elta ground surveillance radars operate in all weather conditions. The company usually recommends adding day/night electro-optical systems to enable target Identification.
The Russian Amphibious Support Ship Azov arrived yesterday at the port of Haifa, in northern Israel, on a three day visit, it is the first time a Russian warship calls at an Israeli port. Defense-Update reports.
The Azov is one of six Russian naval vessels deployed to the Eastern Mediterranean, maintaining a Russian presence near Syria. Russia currently has six ships in the Mediterranean, including the Azov, which made frequent trips to the region before, calling at the Russian resupply base in the Syrian city of Tartus. Another six ships of the Pacific Fleet are on the way to the Mediterranean and expected to join the task force later this month.
According Captain Alexei Komaro, who heads the landing ship unit of the Black Sea Fleet, the task force including the Azov is due to perform exercises off the Syrian coast. Captain Komariv told the Russian Novosti news agency that the task force is prepared to evacuate Russian citizens from Syria, though no such order was given so far.
The Russian vessel will resupply and allow the crew to rest, a spokesman for the Russian Navy said. City residents will also be allowed on board for a guided tour and treated to performances by the Black Sea Fleet orchestra reinforced by marines.