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Volume 570 Issue 7762, 27 June 2019

Flying solo

Flying an object heavier than air is energetically expensive no matter what the size, but this challenge is exacerbated at very small scales because of the need to integrate lightweight components to provide the necessary electronics and propulsion. This means that most insect-size vehicles fly tethered to an off-board power supply. In this week’s issue, Noah Jafferis, Farrell Helbling and their colleagues introduce RoboBee X-Wing, an aerial vehicle the size of an insect that is capable of untethered flight. Weighing just 90 milligrams, RoboBee X-Wing has four wings driven by two piezoelectric actuators and carries a 60-mg photovoltaic array and a 91-mg signal generator, giving it a thrust efficiency matching that of similarly sized insects.

Cover image: Adam DeTour for Nature

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