Microrobot from Harvard contains smart sensors that help it respond dynamically to its surroundings as it flies through the air.


  • Lightweight
  • Small
  • Autonomous


  • Surveillance
  • Environmental monitoring
  • Agriculture

UN Sustainable Development Goals Addressed

  • Goal 9: Industry Innovation & Infrastructure

  • Goal 11: Sustainable Cities & Communities

The Challenge

Robots are made of many components: a physical body, energy storage, a variety of sensors, and more. All these components work together to perform the functions the robot was designed for. Unfortunately, these components are often heavy and bulky. Small robots are unable to carry heavy components without limiting their performance.

Innovation Details

The robots, also called “RoboBees,” are autonomous flying microrobots. One RoboBee measures about half the size of a paper clip and weighs less that one-tenth of a gram. They consist of three main components: the body, the wings, and the “brain.” The body is made of carbon fiber, houses the the sensors, and contains joints that the wings connect to. The wings are wafer-thin and independently controlled by piezoelectric actuators, which move the wings with ceramic that expands and contracts when an electric field is applied. The brain is a series of smart sensors that continuously monitor its environment, enabling the device to avoid obstacles and work closely with other RoboBees.

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Biomimicry Story

Bees use their antennae to understand their surroundings. They have receptors on the antennae that are divided into 4 categories: plates, pegs, hairs, and pits. Plates are receptors for chemicals and light, pegs and pits are for smelling, and hairs are for touch. Together, this information enables bees to safely navigate to their destinations.