The brand-new FAIRY robot, an acronym for “Flying Aero-robots based on Light Responsive Materials Assembly,” is the first flying robot we’ve seen composed of soft materials that respond to light. It weighs just 1.2 milligrammes.
Creators of the robot say they want it to be used to slow the decline of pollinators like bees. The robot was designed after being influenced by dandelion seeds, and it might potentially serve the same function.
With the aid of light, the FAIRY robot may be hoisted into the air, and its bristles’ spread can be controlled. The ultra-lightweight robot is subsequently sent into the air and, like the seeds from which it was constructed, has the potential to spread across a large region.
According to Science Alert, micro roboticist Hao Zeng from Finland’s Tampere University stated, “The FAIRY can be powered and controlled by a light source, such as a laser beam or LED.”
Despite the fantastical ring, our study’s proof-of-concept trials demonstrate that the robot we’ve created is a major step toward practical, artificial pollination applications.
The FAIRY bot is able to breathe via the air since its design is incredibly porous and very light. It has the ability to create its own vortex ring, much like a dandelion seed, which greatly enhances the machine’s aerodynamics and ensures that it can fly great distances without any assistance.
The flying machine’s form may be adjusted to take advantage of the wind, much like a ship’s sail. Unlike a drone, though, you can’t control it with your hands.
Individual fibres of the bristly filament used to build the robot are barely 14 microns in diameter. The brushes are joined by an actuator, a flexible component.
Zeng claims that this artificial seed is superior to its natural counterparts because of the inclusion of a soft actuator. The bristles open and close in response to visible light stimulation, and the actuator is built of light-responsive liquid crystalline elastomer.
Tested in wind tunnels and under laser lights, Zeng and his team imagine millions of these artificial “seeds” blowing pollen to plants in need of pollination. However, a great deal of effort is still required before that may occur.
The researchers are mulling over options for biodegradable coatings and improved landing control for the FAIRY bots. The project’s research phase will go from September 2021 to August 2026.
In hot, dry, windy conditions, dandelion seeds are able to fly as far as ten or even one hundred kilometres because to their ingenious architecture, which has been partially replicated by scientists. Without a battery or other external power source, these FAIRY bots may still carry out the same tasks.
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Zeng warns that the loss of pollinators due to global warming poses a severe danger to biodiversity and food supply, and that this would have far-reaching consequences for agriculture throughout the world.