Harvard's robotic insects fly for the first time

They're a source of fascination for some and paranoia for others – robot insects, which are about the size of your standard house fly and capable of flying in mostly the same fashion. This week the first flight of robotic insects in a Harvard lab was detailed in the journal Science, along with an image of one of the tiny creatures in action, which we have after the jump.

The first flight, according to the Harvard announcement, took place at 3AM one day in the summer of 2012 at the helm of grad student Pakpong Chirarattananon. The robot measured in at half the size of a paperclip, and took flight through a pre-destined route established by presets. This flight was recorded by the student and promptly shared with colleagues.

Such a seemingly small project is the by-product of a lot of work – to the tune of over a decade, according to Harvard. This represents the first controlled flight of a robot as small as an insect; so-called "insect robots". Its design is inspired by a fly, using two wings that beat 120 times per second. From here, work will be started on things like wireless flight, autonomy, and colony coordination.

Said SEAS professor of engineering and applied sciences Robert J. Wood: "This is what I have been trying to do for literally the last 12 years. It's really only because of this lab's recent breakthroughs in manufacturing, materials, and design that we have even been able to try this. And it just worked, spectacularly well."

[via Harvard]