Hopping and Flapping
Exploring distant planets with cumbersome rovers comes with countless challenges. But microrobotics could offer a whole new way to reconnoiter alien environments.
A doctoral student at the University of California, Berkeley named Palak Bhushan built two tiny robots: a flying one that can flap its tiny wings and weighs just one milligram, and a 75 milligram hopping robot that can jump up to eight millimeters six times per minute.
“One of the very good applications that we see her is for exploration… especially in the context or interplanetary exploration,” Bhushan told Space.com.
Two papers describing of Bhushan’s research were published to the preprint archive arXiv earlier this month.
Thanks to their tiny size and minuscule weight, the robots could make short work of tricky terrain. They could also land in mountainous and rocky regions where much larger rovers are not able to.
Theoretically, thousands or tens of thousands of the bots could be sent to the surface of distant planets, greatly improving their chances of survival.
Additionally, tiny flapping-wing robots could fare well in denser atmospheres thanks to much smaller energy requirements for travel. In low density atmospheres like on Mars, a hopping robot could have a much easier time getting around as well.
To make sure they don’t get lost, Bhushan proposes to give the tiny robots a home base aboard a rover to aid in communication.
READ MORE: These Jumping, Flapping Microrobots Could Swarm On Far-Off Worlds [Space.com]
More on tiny robots: Tiny Spies: This Insect-Like Flying Robot is Smaller Than a Penny