This article is for quizzes on Thursday May 5th...

RoboBee is a tiny robot capable of tethered flight, developed by a research robotics team at Harvard University. The culmination of twelve years of research, RoboBee solved two key technical challenges of micro-robotics. Engineers invented a process inspired by pop-up books that allowed them to build on a sub-millimeter scale precisely and efficiently. To achieve flight, they created artificial muscles capable of beating the wings 120 times per second.
The goal of the RoboBee project is to make a fully autonomous swarm of flying robots for applications such as search and rescue and artificial pollination. To make this feasible, researchers need to figure out how to get power supply and decision making functions, which are currently supplied to the robot via a tiny tether, on board.

The 3-centimeter (1.2 in) wingspan of RoboBee makes it the smallest man-made device modeled on an insect to achieve flight.

If researchers solve the microchip and power issues, it is believed that groups of RoboBees utilizing swarm intelligence will be highly useful in search and rescue efforts and as artificial pollinators. To achieve the goal of swarm intelligence, the research team has developed two abstract programming languages – Karma which uses flowcharts, and OptRAD which uses probabilistic algorithms.

Potential applications for individual or small groups of RoboBees include covert surveillance and the detection of harmful chemicals.

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