MIT professor derives inspiration from insects for new drones

CAMBRIDGE, MASS. (WHDH) - An MIT professor has derived inspiration from an insect.

Kevin Chen and other researchers have been working on these complex “bug bots” for over a decade. Their unique design allows them to mimic a bug’s agility and operate in cramped spaces.

This next generation of drones will be as acrobatic and resilient as a mosquito and once they are introduced, researchers hope they will be a game-changer

“Think about a scenario, for example, a building collapse with people trapped inside, and what we’re thinking of is sending a swarm of drones into this collapsed building to search for survivors,” Chen explained. That’s something very difficult for traditional drones.”

He said the bug bots will have applications for many industries that need difficult tasks performed.

“Turbine engines periodically need to be taken apart to look for cracks on the engine. That is a very time-consuming mission. So we want to send in tons of tiny robots to do the inspection. It saves everyone a ton of time,” he said.

For Chen, imitating an insect’s aerodynamics has been the most singular part of this particular project.

“We power these robots with soft actuators which feel like a muscle so they elongate and contrast…which gives the robot resilience against a collision and maneuver like an insect,” he said.

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