Four-winged robot flies like a jellyfish

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

When you hear that a flying robot mimics an animal, you assume it’s a bird or an insect — or maybe a bat. How about a jellyfish?

A four-winged design created by Leif Ristroph and colleagues at New York University, which boasts a body plan reminiscent of a jellyfish, is more stable in the air than insect-like machines.

The prototype consists of a carbon-fibre frame surrounded by two pairs of thin plastic wings that open and close when driven by a motor. Its shape allows it to fly upright with little effort, without requiring sensors or intelligence to adjust its wings like those used by insects. “Making a dumb machine is a nice strategy for very small robots,” says Ristroph. “Without circuits and sensors, it’s also lighter.”

The robot is tethered to a power source for now, but improvements to the motor and wings should soon let it roam free.


  1. It also seems that this sort of solution would scale down well due to the increase in the apparent viscosity of air. I wouldn’t be surprised if we one day find a fossil of some ancient order of organisms that used the approach for aerial navigation only to be out-competed by insects.

  2. Bruce says:

    Damn right, Scipio! I bet some paleozoic epiphyte with bloated, methane-friendly rhizomes ruled the skies! I’d almost believe in vines that built up a static charge and flew on the ion wind effect, like some spiders. It’s not like fossils from back then make any sense anyway.

  3. Indeed, there are whole classes of fossils for which we still haven’t the foggiest notion of which way is up.

  4. Slovenian Guest says:

    Speaking of impressive, I present you the Robugtix T8, a gamepad-controlled, 3D-printed octobot that uses a total of 26 servos:

    Inside Adam Savage’s Cave: Awesome Robot Spider!

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