Creating the Mobee (the Monolithic Bee)


This is a fascinating video about the creation of a dime-sized robot flying machine. I have to say, every step in the process is at once innovative and scary. How long til the future of miniature spy drones? We’re already very likely to end up with Man-Hacks drilling into our brainpans when we least suspect them. Why not fly-shaped spy robots in every home?

Okay, seriously, this would be great for mass-production of tiny exploration bots so we could map areas on other planets or what have you. Imagine sending a probe with a compartment full of these things, each with a mini cam that feeds live video streams back to the probe, out to another planet where they could map the whole thing in no time flat.

Comments

  1. Uncle Glenny says

    Not thinking of a PK Dick universe here, are yoiu, with Edward Bernays as advertising designer.

    If you think a mosquito buzzing near your ear was annoying, just think if it was trying to sell you (ahem) male enhancement products.

    (will the spam filter catch this?)

  2. says

    There’s no demonstration of flight, so forgive me for finding this video lacking.

    @jimbaerg :

    They said “external” power source, which is essentially hand-waving. I had the same thought. Obviously, you can gather energy from the sun or the environment, but that requires structures and materials that are far more involved than shown in this demonstration. I would estimate an increase in the size of the device by a factor of three or four, at a minimum, and more realistically somewhere from five to ten times as large. Once you get out to ten times as big, much of the ‘advantage’ of external power is lost compared to simply using a battery. This is especially true if relying on solar energy, as the device is useless at night.

    Then again, maybe they expect to get energy from cold fusion. It’ll work any day now, promise!

    @Jason :

    Unmanned drones are already used for surveillance in some areas, primarily by military units. These things are increasingly under consideration and adoption by certain police departments, as well, and that aspect is especially frightening. This is not a new phenomenon, though, as the military industrial complex has been very keen on selling (or re-selling) its products to police departments for many decades now.

    Another machine that can be used for simple spying is an RC plane. Most are quite a bit smaller than the typical military drone, which was designed to be able to carry a bomb or missile with it. They’re also quite fast for their size, some being able to reach in excess of 60 mph.

    Assuming that someone does manage to successfully design and engineer these “bugs”, it will surely become necessary to develop anti-spying countermeasures. Probably those would include electromagnetic jamming of one sort or another, which may have undesirable side effects on wireless communication.

    One way or the other I’m skeptical of the ability of the planned designs to actually work for long-term and high-quality surveillance. It’s not merely the issues of the power source, flight/landing mechanics, and so forth. There’s also the question of how any small wireless communicator is going to reach the home base, where-ever that may be located. The amount of power for a signal you can generate in something the size of a penny is simply miniscule. Thus, it’s going to have issues penetrating any significant walls, metal obstructions, and so forth. If one has to install a relay transmitter station in the very near vicinity of the “bugs”, then it’s going to defeat most of the stealth in the surveillance.

  3. says

    I think the demonstration was more to demonstrate that building very tiny machines with working moving parts (e.g. that would withstand being moved at 30Hz). Yes, they don’t have built-in power sources, and no, they haven’t shown it to fly. I suspect it would fly just fine though. There’s a related project at Harvard that, combining the manufacturing process with their research, could result in miniature flying robots in a relatively short time frame.

  4. Kilian Hekhuis says

    I very much doubt they would fly, since it seems the wings aren’t rotating. Flapping pieces of plastic doesn’t create lift.

  5. Brad says

    They are already very small, and autonomous. I suspect that they have fairly short flight time before recharging (minutes rather than tens of minutes).

    Another off-the-shelf product is Cropcam – an autonomous, GPS-guided electric model aircraft used for aerial photography. Apparently the military is a purchaser.

    Cool to be living in an age where this stuff is not only possible, it’s cheap enough to be a hobby if your interest leans that way.

  6. 24fps says

    The US air force is working on similar bug bots at their AFRL in Dayton – we shot there for a doc we did about 2 years ago. So they are in the works. Companies like iRobot have been working on small, bug-like robots, as are other countries air forces, using biomimetics (like Isreal).

    Although they are still in the experimental stage, I would expect to see working models easily within the next 5 years.

    “Swarm” technology is being developed as well, which will be used in conjunction with small and large autonomous robots.

  7. says

    @Brad :

    I suspected someone had a much larger working model. Thanks for the link.

    Although I feel those are pressing the limits of very small. They are small, yes, but larger and noisier than your average dragonfly. Plenty effective for outdoor use, but not well suited to indoor surveillance.

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