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Bio-inspired Insect-Scale Robot

The scale of a bio-inspired insect-scale robot is shown with a cartoon robot superimposed on a photo of a human hand

This project is a Strategic Research Initiative (SRI) and collaboration between the Kinetic Materials Research Group, the Parasol Lab, the Biosensors Lab, and the BAM lab at the University of Illinois. Our goal is to design and fabricate an insect-scale autonomous robot that jumps, glides, and navigates its environment using light polarization.

Engineering Challenges

Current robots at the millimeter scale still face severe actuation, locomotion, and power challenges. There is a discrepancy between the power source and the actuators' power requirements, which necessitates most robots at this scale to be powered by physical tethers or external photonic, magnetic, or vibration fields. Finally, the lack of onboard sensing and computing prevent fully autonomous navigation and path planning. These scale-induced challenges prevent small robots from becoming autonomous in terms of power (ability to move untethered), mobility (ability to traverse diverse terrains), and control (reliably plan the path and navigate from point A to point B). 

BAM Approach

The BAM lab is currently focusing on designing the wing deployment mechanism.

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