Among the state of the art academic research on pico air vehicles, the majority has focused on biomimetic flight mechanisms (e.g. flapping wings). This project looks to develop new microfabricated transduction mechanisms and systems for flying microrobots with the goal of opening up the application space beyond that allowed by the industry-standard single quadcoptor. One proposed mechanism, electrohydrodynamic (EHD) force generated via sub-millimeter corona discharge, functions silently and with no moving parts, directly converting ion current to induced airflow. Current work is focused on demonstrating controlled hovering of the robot; the first step on this path is simulated control using experimentally measured aerodynamic drag, voltage to force response, and sensor noise values. Ultimately, integration within development power systems and communications platforms (SCuM) will yield a truly autonomous flying microrobot powered by ion thrusters – the ionocraft. With novel robot designs, we investigate the coordination and capabilities of swarms of mesh-networked micro-robots. Partially decentralized control of 100s of robots has potential due to its reduced computation compared to full centralization, but maintains the flexibility of local decisions for agents. With the open-source OpenWSN simulator, we are exploring multi-agent control with realistic communication and dynamics models.
Project ended 08/01/2022