The Wyss Institute’s and SEAS robotics team built different models of the soft actuator powered RoboBee. Shown here is a four-wing, two actuator, and an eight-wing, four-actuator RoboBee model the latter of which being the first soft actuator-powered flying microrobot that is capable of controlled hovering flight. Credit: Harvard Microrobotics Lab/Harvard SEASBy Leah Burrows

The sight of a RoboBee careening towards a wall or crashing into a glass box may have once triggered panic in the researchers in the Harvard Microrobotics Laboratory at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS), but no more.

Researchers at SEAS and Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have developed a resilient RoboBee powered by soft artificial muscles that can crash into walls, fall onto the floor, and collide with other RoboBees without being damaged. It is the first microrobot powered by soft actuators to achieve controlled flight.

“There has been a big push in the field of microrobotics to make mobile robots out of soft actuators because they are so resilient,” said Yufeng Chen, Ph.D., a former graduate student and postdoctoral fellow at SEAS and first author of the paper. “However, many people

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