[ASC-media] Media release: robot moth to explore Mars

JCA Media jcamedia at starclass.com.au
Sun Aug 22 22:51:33 EST 2004

Sir Mark Oliphant Conferences 2004 Media Release


A miniature flying robot intended for military surveillance or exploring the planet Mars is under development by a team of US researchers.

The 'Entomopter' uses a revolutionary method of propulsion known as reciprocating chemical muscle (RCM) to create wingbeats inspired by the world of flying insects. 

The leader of the Entomopter team at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Professor Robert Michelson, says the flapping-wing design gives the craft unusually high lift compared with a fixed-wing flyer.

Professor Michelson will outline the team's achievements at the Sir Mark Oliphant Conference on Insect Sensors and Robotics in Brisbane today.

The mechanical insect converts chemically-stored energy into wing beats, leaving enough power to spare for other on-board systems, including the ability to increase lift in one wing - and thereby roll and steer the device.

The prototype Entomopter has a pair of wings at either end spanning 15cm and modeled on those of the hawk moth, and weighs just 50 grammes.

The work has been significantly funded by the US defence establishment, which sees potential military applications in the small flying robot.

However, Prof. Michelson says, NASA also sees it as possibly an ideal vehicle for exploring Mars. Fixed wing aircraft would have to fly at 350kmh to stay aloft in the thin Martian atmosphere, making observation and landings difficult. An Entomopter, however, could patrol more slowly and linger or land in places of interest.

The NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts has funded a program to study the Entomopter as an flying Mars Surveyor.

Current research is focusing on further miniaturizing the size of the RCM powerplant and on developing the ultimate wing design. Flying models of the Entomopter have already taken to the air, powered by elastic motors.

"No other air vehicle design space has presented the mix of challenges as that of miniature flight platforms. As these tiny platforms invade the flight regime of birds and insects, engineers must address the same physical design constraints which have already been mastered by the world of airborne biology, including low Reynolds number aerodynamics, high energy density, and extreme miniaturization," Prof. Michelson explains.

The Sir Mark Oliphant Conference on Insect Sensors and Robotics is being held at Emanuel College, the University of Queensland, in Brisbane, from August 23-25, 2004. 

Media are welcome to attend and interview participants.

More information 
Prof. Robert Michelson, Georgia Institute of Technology, USA
Ph + 61 (0)7 3871 9100  
Professor M. Srinivasan, Australian National University, 0410 417 685
M.Srinivasan at anu.edu.au

Information on the conference:
Prof Julian Cribb, media contact, 0418 639 245, Cathy Reade 0413 575 934

Website: ScienceAlert.com.au

August 23, 2004

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