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

ABSTRACT:
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.

Takeaways

  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}
}