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Flying Aero-robots based on Light Responsive Materials Assembly (FAIRY)

Tampere University
Duration of project1.9.2021–31.8.2026
Area of focusTechnology

In the past decade, the market of small-sized aerial vehicles equipped with motorized propellers has experienced a rapid growth. Recent advances in understanding flapping-wing aerodynamics have allowed realization of insect-like flying objects that are agile and robust. However, those electrically powered robots encounter great challenges in miniaturization because of the motor/actuator size and especially the weight of on-board battery. Recently, light-responsive soft materials have proven their unique ability of actuation, providing novel approaches for miniaturization of soft robots by powering them wirelessly through remotely controlled light beam(s). This has led to demonstrations of versatile light-driven robots that can walk, swim, jump, etc. Yet, their application in the frontier of flying vehicles remains unexplored.

FAIRY aims to develop small-scale light driven flying robots with adaptive features inspired by biological organisms. It comprises three objectives: 1) Self-adaptive robots capable of passive flying, inspired by the dispersal of Dandelions, 2) Glider with external control over maneuver and 3) A sub-centimeter-sized flyer capable of hovering by active wing flapping.

The project is located at the interface between responsive materials and micro-robotics, aiming to address the challenges across scientific borders. The successful implementation of FAIRY will provide record-breaking miniaturization and new modes of flying robots with decision-making, in longer term bringing opportunities for autonomous micro-aircrafts for human rescue and space exploring.

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Funding source

Academy of Finland, Academy Research Fellow.