Robot Ray Swims Using High-Voltage Artificial Muscles

This robotic ray, developed at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, is propelled by soft flapping wings made of dielectric elastomers, which bend when electricity is applied to them. Dielectric elastomers respond very quickly with relatively large motions, but they require very high voltages (on the order of 10 kilovolts) to get them to work. Traditionally, dielectric elastomers are covered in insulation, but for this aquatic application the researchers instead just submerged everything insulation free, relying on the water to act as both electrode and electric ground. There are several other reasons why this design is notable. First, it’s almost entirely transparent, with the body, fins, tail, and elastomer muscles being completely see-through. The effect is slightly spoiled when you a...

In the U.S., Flying Drones Out of Sight Is Still Out of Mind

15 Apr 2017 | 13:00 GMT But the Federal Aviation Administration is allowing PrecisionHawk to test a system for managing small drones beyond visual line of sight For years, companies like Amazon have promised that they’ll eventually be delivering packages using drones. One problem, at least in the United States: The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) Small UAS Rule doesn’t allow drones to be flown outside the visual range of the remote pilot. That pretty much puts drone deliveries on hold. The FAA is, however, exploring how to relax that requirement and has waived it for a couple of companies, one of which is PrecisionHawk, based in Raleigh, North Carolina. PrecisionHawk isn’t delivering packages. But it is working on a system for managing drone flights so that they could be sa...

Astrobee: NASA’s Newest Robot for the International Space Station

11 Feb 2017 | 14:00 GMT Small, versatile, and autonomous, Astrobee will be getting to work on the ISS The International Space Station will soon be getting some new robot occupants. Astrobee is a robotic cube packed with sensors, cameras, computers, and a propulsion system. It’s designed to help astronauts around the ISS with a variety of tasks. While the robot is designed to fly freely on board the ISS, for testing on the ground, Astrobee is mounted on top of a sled that uses a jet of CO2 to create a low-friction air bearing above a perfectly flat (and very enormous) block of granite. This allows the researchers to simulate microgravity in two dimensions to test the robot’s propulsion and navigation systems, but once it’s up in space, the entire robot will consist of just the cube that’s d...

This Robot Can Fly a Plane From Takeoff to Landing

15 Nov 2016 | 19:58 GMT KAIST’s PIBOT can sit in the pilot’s seat and fly a regular aicraft just like a human would Developing an unmanned aircraft is a complex and expensive process, and even retrofitting manned aircraft for autonomous operation can be tricky. At KAIST in South Korea, researchers are testing a humanoid robot that’s designed to operate a regular aircraft by sitting in the pilot’s seat and using the controls just like a human would. PIBOT (pilot robot) demonstrated its skills on a flight simulator at IROS 2016.  PIBOT can manage all aspects of a flight: turning the engine on, taxiing, taking off, flying, and even landing. The robot relies on input from the simulator to determine the location and state of the aircraft and lands successfully 80 percent of the time...

Robot Dance Party: Major Robotics Conference Coming to South Korea

Get ready: one of the world’s biggest robot research conferences, the IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), is coming South Korea next week. The conference will be held at the Daejeon Convention Center 9-14 October 2016. Here’s a taste of what’s to come. And for our full coverage, head over to our robotics blog, Automaton. IEEE SR

Tackle This: Football’s Newest Most Valuable Player Is a Robot

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Festo’s Fantastical Flying Robots

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Genetically Engineered Rat Cells Make This Robot Stingray Swim

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Robot Surgeons Are Taking Over the Operating Room

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How to Build a Moral Robot

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Octopus-Inspired Robots Can Grasp, Crawl, and Swim

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The Best Robots at IROS 2015

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