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Review Article

Appl. Mech. Rev. 2018;70(1):010801-010801-9. doi:10.1115/1.4038795.
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Flying insects are able to navigate complex and highly dynamic environments, can rapidly change their flight speeds and directions, are robust to environmental disturbances, and are capable of long migratory flights. However, flying robots at similar scales have not yet demonstrated these characteristics autonomously. Recent advances in mesoscale manufacturing, novel actuation, control, and custom integrated circuit (IC) design have enabled the design of insect-scale flapping wing micro air vehicles (MAVs). However, there remain numerous constraints to component technologies—for example, scalable high-energy density power storage—that limit their functionality. This paper highlights the recent developments in the design of small-scale flapping wing MAVs, specifically discussing the various power and actuation technologies selected at various vehicle scales as well as the control architecture and avionics onboard the vehicle. We also outline the challenges associated with creating an integrated insect-scale flapping wing MAV.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster

Discussion

Appl. Mech. Rev. 2018;70(1):015501-015501-2. doi:10.1115/1.4038796.

Flying insects exhibit truly remarkable capabilities. There has been significant interest in developing small-scale flying robots by taking inspiration from flying insects. The paper by Helbling and Wood reports remarkable progress made by the research community in realizing insect-scale flapping wing vehicles and identifies research challenges and opportunities. This discussion builds upon their paper and examines the potential of insect-scale flapping wing flight from an application point of view. It summarizes requirements and mention implications of these requirements on propulsion, power, and control architecture.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster

Closure

Appl. Mech. Rev. 2018;70(1):016001-016001-1. doi:10.1115/1.4038797.

The authors of the review article “A Review of Propulsion, Power, and Control Architectures for Insect-Scale Flapping wing Vehicles” [1] greatly appreciated the commentary by Dr. S. K. Gupta [2]. We believe that he has identified numerous practical considerations that were not covered in depth in our review and that nicely complement our review such that, in aggregate, the two present a complete picture of the challenges and opportunities for developing and deploying autonomous insect-like vehicles. In particular, Dr. Gupta highlights the need for payload and flight time that are adequate for a desired mission or scenario. This brings up an inherent conundrum in the design of any flying vehicle (i.e., greater mission duration requires more onboard energy storage, leading to more massive storage device and a commensurate increase in required thrust to compensate, also increasing energy consumption; thus, increasing mission duration while keeping vehicle size constant is a significant challenge). Radical new solutions for energy harvesting or quantum breakthroughs in energy storage technologies are needed to get away from this tradeoff. Similarly, communication poses a challenge since even low-power wireless communication can consume a comparable amount of power as required for flight (Bluetooth Low Energy, for example, can consume more than 100 mW of power while transmitting, and we measured the power for flight of the RoboBee in Ref. [3] to be 19 mW2). This motivates exploration into communication strategies that leverage either semipassive communication methods, such as explored for MEMS sensor mote applications [4], or as Gupta points out, multifunctional use of components otherwise needed for the flight and control apparatus.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster

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