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New Robobee Flies, Dives, Swims, and Explodes Out of the Water

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The new RoboBee aerial-to-aquatic robot.

The latest generation of RoboBee developed at Harvard University's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences can transition directly from water to air.

Credit: Yufeng Chen/Harvard SEAS

Researchers at Harvard University's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have developed the latest generation of RoboBee, an aerial-to-aquatic robot that is 1,000 times lighter than any previous model.

The robot has floating devices so it can stabilize on the water's surface before an internal combustion system ignites to propel it back into the air.

The researchers say RoboBee could be used for search-and-rescue operations, environmental monitoring, and biological studies.

"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," says SEAS' Yufeng Chen.

The researchers combined theoretical modeling and experimental data to find the right combination of wing size and flapping rate, scaling the design to enable the robot to operate repeatedly in both air and water.

"The RoboBee represents a platform where forces are different than what we--at human scale--are used to experiencing," says Harvard professor Robert Wood.

From Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
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