Countless science fiction works have set our expectations for small, mobile, autonomous robots that can move through highly dynamic and complex environments for use in a broad range of applications. For example, search and rescue in confined, hazardous, or inaccessible places, distributed sensor networks with improved temporal and spatial resolution, and minimally invasive medical procedures. Advances in multi-scale manufacturing and the proliferation of small electronic devices have paved the way to realizing this vision with centimeter-scale robots. However, there remain significant challenges in making these highly-articulated mechanical devices fully autonomous due to the severe mass and power constraints. My research takes a holistic approach to navigating the inherent tradeoffs in each component in terms of their size, mass, power, and computation requirements. In this talk I will present strategies for creating an autonomous vehicle, the Harvard RoboBee – an insect-scale flapping-wing robot with unprecedented mass, power, and computation constraints. I will present my work on the analysis of control and power requirements for this vehicle, as well as results on the integration of onboard sensors. I also will discuss recent results that culminate nearly two decades of effort to create a power autonomous insect-scale vehicle. Lastly, I will outline how this design strategy can be readily applied to other micro and bioinspired autonomous robots.
Farrell Helbling is a PhD candidate at Harvard University, where she focuses on the systems-level design of the Harvard RoboBee, an insect-scale flapping wing robot. Her research looks at the integration of the control system, sensors, and power electronics within the strict weight and power constraints of the vehicle. She is the recipient of a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, a 2018 Rising Star in EECS, and co-author on the IROS 2015 Best Student Paper for an insect-scale, hybrid aerial-aquatic vehicle. Her work on the RoboBee project is also featured at the Boston Museum of Science, World Economic Forum, London Science Museum, and the Smithsonian, as well as in the popular press (Science Friday, BBC, and Popular Science). She is interested in the codesign of mechanical and electrical systems for mass-, power-, and computation-constrained robots.
Host: Jeff Lang