Inspired by the success of insects at flying, the most successful attempts to make flying robots on the cm and smaller wingspan scale to date have followed biomimetics, copying the motions seen in nature. However, insect wing motions are complicated and require complex actuators and control, which are difficult to fabricate on the extremely small scale – In fact, even fabricating an actuator with similar frequencies or stroke amplitudes to insects is an achievement.
Enter curved cantilevers. The microrobotic flight group at McMaster combines analytical and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) work to determine the resonant shape and fluidic forces of curved cantilevers, predicting that they have “fluid diode” properties: they generate an asymmetric force from a symmetric flapping cycle. While not necessarily as efficient as insect wings, these curved cantilevers may nevertheless make attractive flying robot designs because they lend themselves to parallel microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) fabrication techniques. Finding out whether this is indeed true requires answering two questions: 1) Do material systems and components suggest promising flying robots if the theoretical and computational work is correct? and 2) Is the theoretical and computational work correct? The exciting answer to both questions so far is yes.
In addition to research work on microrobotic flight, I am particularly interested in engineering education. Check out video lectures for selected courses at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfxVudf-9F6K5JQgUYx-HIA