- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
The noonhour seminar, titled "RoboBee: Using the Engineering Toolbox to Understand the Flight Apparatus of Flying Insects” will be broadcast remotely to 122 Briggs Hall. Hosted by distinguished professor James R. Carey, the seminar takes place from 12:10 to 1 p.m.
Carey has arranged the virtual seminar with robotist and bioengineer Sawyer Buckminster Fuller, a postdoctoral scholar with Harvard University's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).
Researchers from the SEAS and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard built the flying robot insect, a project that took more than a decade. It culminated in the first controlled flight of an insect-sized, biologically inspired robot. Researchers Kevin Ma, Pakpong Chirarattananon, Sawyer Fuller and Robert Wood published their work in the May 3, 2013 edition of the journal Science.
The remote-controlled flying robot is tethered to a wire at a base station that powers and controls its flight. In an article published in EurekAlert, SEAS communications writer Caroline Perry described the robot as “about half the size of a paperclip and weighing less than a 10th of a gram.” The researchers based their work on the biology of a fly “with submillimeter-scale anatomy and two wafer-thin wings that flap almost invisibly, 120 times per second.”
In a March 2013 article, "The RoboBee Project is Building Flying Robits the Size of Insects," published in Scientific American, authors Robert Wood, Radhika Nagpal and Gu-Yeon Wei wrote: "Not too long ago a mysterious affliction called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) began to wipe out honeybee hives. These bees are responsible for most commercial pollination in the U.S., and their loss provoked fears that agriculture might begin to suffer as well. In 2009 the three of us, along with colleagues at Harvard University and Northeastern University, began to seriously consider what it would take to create a robotic bee colony. We wondered if mechanical bees could replicate not just an individual's behavior but the unique behavior that emerges out of interactions among thousands of bees. We have now created the first RoboBees—flying bee-size robots—and are working on methods to make thousands of them cooperate like a real hive."
They wrote that "Superficially, the task appears nearly impossible. Bees have been sculpted by millions of years of evolution into incredible flying machines. Their tiny bodies can fly for hours, maintain stability during wind gusts, seek out flowers and avoid predators. Try that with a nickel-size robot."
The RoboBee virtual seminar is the first of its kind hosted by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the last of the seminars for the fall quarter.