Robots the size of insects were built by researchers at the University of Washington. Called RoboFly, they are small winged robots weighing only around 150 pounds that can fly, move on the ground and even touch the surface of the water.
As explained in an article presented on arXiv, taken from Tech Xplore, these small robots have fewer components than other robots of similar size, which of course makes them easier to build. The small robots try to imitate their biological counterpart by performing a sort of multimodal locomotion: aerial flight, earth movement and movement on the water surface.
The RoboFly is an adaptation of the RoboBee, another microrobot that Sawyer Fuller, one of the authors of this project, had already developed near Harvard University. To simplify the construction of such small robots, which are usually made under the microscope because they have to be assembled with extreme precision, the researchers invented a new method: a single sheet of laminate can be bent to form the robot and therefore there are no parts to attach or assemble.
Thanks to its flapping wings, when it flies through the air it can easily steer and change direction, just like insects do. It can also glide over water as well as walk on land, making it a unique microrobot.
Potential uses could see search and rescue missions or missions to look for pollutants or leakage of dangerous fluids into the water.