An insect-inspired robotic that may fly for as much as 9 minutes


The KUBeetle-S robot. Photo credit: Hoang Vu Phan et al

Researchers at Konkuk University in South Korea recently developed KUBeetle-S, a flying robot inspired by a horned beetle species called Allomyrina dichotoma, one of the largest insects in the world. Allomyrina Dichtoma weighs approximately 5 to 10 g and has a wing loading of 40 N / m2, which is remarkably high compared to average insect wing loading (typically around 8 N / m2).

“In order to mimic the flight of the beetle, we first developed a flapping wing mechanism that can generate a large flapping angle and create lift to counterbalance the weight of the KUBeetle-S, just like the horned beetle that inspired it,” says Prof Hoon Cheol Park, one of the researchers who conducted the recent study, told TechXplore. “Since the KUBeetle-S, unlike a conventional Flyer, is not equipped with control surfaces at the rear, its flapping wings must only be able to generate control moments if their wing kinematics are changed in the middle of the flapping movement.”

The control torque generator that Prof. Park and his colleagues have installed in KUBeetle-S can change the wing stroke level of the robot to the right, left, front and back and thus ultimately enable its vertical lift to be deflected as desired and at the same time generate a control torque. This generator is mechanically integrated into lightweight servo motors and can also be controlled electronically via a control board and a feedback control system based on an algorithm developed by the researchers.

KUBeetle-S flies outdoors. Photo credit: Hoang Vu Phan et al.

Just like the horned beetle it is inspired by, KUBeetle-S, first featured in the International Journal of Micro Air Vehicles, can switch between different modes of locomotion, including hovering, with an impressively high stroke amplitude of over 180 degrees. In a recent article pre-published on arXiv, the researchers were also able to significantly improve their flight time using a low-voltage source.

“The main goal of our paper recently pre-published on arXiv was to increase the flight time or endurance of the KUBeetle-S robot,” explained Prof. Park. “We were able to extend the life of the robot by choosing an aerodynamically efficient wing and increasing the wing area to match the wing loading with that of the real Beetle. In particular, the inboard wing area was cut out.”

In addition to improving the lift and the lift-power ratio of the robot wings, the design strategies used by Prof. Park and his colleagues reduce the overall input voltage. In addition, they allow researchers to operate the KUBeetle-S from a low voltage source using a single LiPo battery in the operating range of the robot motor.

KUBeetle-S flies outdoors. Photo credit: Hoang Vu Phan et al.

Researchers conducted a series of tests to assess the performance and lifespan of the KUBeetle-S when applying these new design strategies. They found that low-voltage operation prevented the drive motor from overheating and increased the life of the robot.

“Another important advantage of our robot is its light weight,” Hoang Vu Phan, another researcher involved in the study, told TechXplore. “Thanks to the simple but effective control mechanism that we reported on in our previous work, we were able to use tiny servos to save weight. The 15.8 g KUBeetle-S is the lightest two-winged robot to date that can control a free one Flight can be sustained with all on board components. “

The first version of KUBeetle-S, featured in the researchers’ previous publication, weighed 16.4 g and was powered by a two-cell LiPo 7.4 V battery. By changing and enlarging the robot’s wings, the researchers were able to reduce its weight to 15.8 g and improve the total flight time from three minutes to nearly nine minutes.

KUBeetle-S: An insect-inspired robot that can fly for up to 9 minutes

The KUBeetle-S robot. Photo credit: Hoang Vu Phan et al

“Our results suggest that finding an aerodynamically efficient wing is critical to the endurance of a flying robot,” said Prof. Park. “We also found that the KUBeetle-S can fly longer if its wing loading is close to that of the real Beetle, indicating that wing loading is an important parameter even if we mimic nature’s leaflets.”

The new strategies from Dr. Park, Phan, and their colleagues not only improve the robot’s endurance and flight time, but also enable it to move in any direction, fly outdoors, and carry additional payloads. Because of these properties, the robot is better suited to a range of real-world applications such as: B. for moving objects from one place to another.

In the future, KUBeetle-S could also be used to study insects and better understand the mechanisms behind their movements, such as the fast turns often seen in flies. Because of its small size, it could potentially even be used in natural habitats to collect shots of insects and other wildlife, or to carry out secret military missions.

“In our next studies, we will focus on further extending the robot’s flight time and installing an on-board vision system for navigational flight,” said Phan. “We also plan to see if we can improve stability during flight transitions, for example from fast forward flight to hovering and in wind disturbances, to improve the robot’s maneuverability. The ultimate goal will be autonomous flight.” of the KUBeetle-S. ”

New kind of flying robot imitates the fast flight of insects

More information:
Hoang Vu Phan et al. On the way to the long-haul flight of an insect-inspired, tailless, double-winged, fluttering flying robot. arXiv: 2005.06715 [cs.RO].

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