Toward Controlled Flight of the Ionocraft: A Flying Microrobot Using Electrohydrodynamic Thrust With Onboard Sensing and No Moving Parts

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ABSTRACT:
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This letter presents an insect-scale microrobot that flies silently and with no mechanical moving parts, using a mechanism with no analogue in the natural world: electrohydrodynamic thrust produced by ions generated via corona discharge. For the first time, attitude and acceleration data are continuously collected from takeoff and sustained flight of a 2 cm × 2 cm, 30 mg “ionocraft” carrying a 37 mg 9-axis commercial IMU on FlexPCB payload, with external tethers for power and data transfer. The ionocraft's steady-state thrust versus voltage profile, dynamic response to a time-varying signal around a high voltage dc bias point, and aerodynamic drag at incident angles around 90° are measured. These experimental measurements, as well as measured IMU sensor noise, are inserted into a MATLAB Simulink simulation environment. Simulation shows controlled hovering and planned flight in arbitrary straight trajectories in the XY plane.

What you need to know:

  1. Other thrust modalities are feasible for controlled flight of small-scale robots (double points because it is not bio inspired)!
  2. Deploying micro-fabricated devices is way harder than you think until you try it.

Citation

@article{drew2018toward,
 title={Toward Controlled Flight of the Ionocraft: A Flying Microrobot Using Electrohydrodynamic Thrust With Onboard Sensing and No Moving Parts},
 author={Drew, Daniel S and Lambert, Nathan and Schindler, Craig B and Pister, Kristofer SJ},
 journal={IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters},
 volume={3},
 number={4},
 pages={2807--2813},
 year={2018},
 publisher={IEEE}
}