It has been found to be the case that flying microbots termed RoboBees employ static electricity to get their job done
They are called RoboBats or RoboBees and they fly through the air using AI techniques. These curious creations of computerized robotic technology tend to perch in the air in order to conserve energy in the same manner as birds, bats or butterflies.
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The majority of drones have the job of staying hovering in the air for a long period of time. The only problem is that smaller flying robots tend to lose energy when they do this. To keep them hovering requires extra energy that has to have a source.
A team of experts found a way out through studying the handiwork of Mother Nature and the application of simple scientific tools. Perching is a methodology used by many flying creatures to conserve energy.
However the means of perching that are employed such as sticky pads or talons are just not suitable for a paper clip-sized flying microbot.
The movements are too complex and the forces needed for detachment are too high. Thus the team of researchers turned to electrostatic adhesion as a way out of this conundrum.
This is the same force which causes a charged sock to stick to a pair of pants. It is also the same force that causes a balloon to stick to a wall. By friction with a wool jersey, a balloon gets negatively charged.
When brought near a wall, the negative charge forces the electrons of the wall to be repelled thereby creating a momentary positive charge. This causes attraction between the wall and the balloon.
This attraction lasts for a short while though. Yet in the system built by the scientists, the adhesive charge remains intact for much longer.
The RoboBee consists of an electrode patch and a foam mount that acts as a shock absorber. The net weight of the microbot is 100 mg which resembles that of a real-life honey bee.
It flies in a normal manner as any flying insect would for that matter. When it is charged, it can adhere to any surface, be it a leaf, wooden cabinet or glass window. In order to undergo detachment, the power supply is turned off.
Furthermore, there is no destabilization which is a good thing. The amount of energy required to perch is a thousand times less than it takes for the microbot to hover. In the making of these minute flying robots, the crucial issues are simplicity of design and low power supply.
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An article based on the findings of this study got published in the journal Science recently.