A drone powered by electrohydrodynamic thrust is the smallest flying robot ever made
Insect-scale flying robots are usually designed to mimic biological insects, because biological insects are masters of efficient small-scale flying. These flapping-wing micro air vehicles (FMAVS) approach the size of real insects, and we’ve seen some impressive demonstrations of bee-sized robots that can take off, hover, and even go for a swim. Making a tiny robot with flapping wings that can move in all of the degrees of freedom necessary to keep it controllable is tricky, though, requiring complicated mechanical transmissions and complicated software as well.
It’s understandable why the biomimetic approach is the favored one—insects have had a couple hundred million years to work out all the kinks, and the other ways in which we’ve figured out how to get robots to fly under their own power (namely, propeller-based systems) don’t scale down to small sizes very well. But there’s another way to fly, and unlike wings or airfoils, it’s something that animals haven’t managed to come up with: electrohydrodynamic thrust, which requires no moving parts, just electricity.
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