Flying robots the size of insects are usually designed to mimic biological insects, because the biological insects are considered as masters of efficient small flight. These microapparatus flying with flapping wings (FMAV) are approaching the size of real insects, and the demonstration of some robots the size of bees really surprised: they can fly, float and even dive into the water. However, to create a tiny robot with flapping wings that can move in all degrees of freedom necessary to control, is quite difficult, requires a complex mechanical transmission and a sophisticated software.
It is easy to guess why biomimetic approach is preferable: in insects several hundred million years to work out all movement, and other ways in which we learned how to make robots fly it yourself (namely: systems based on propellers), massturbate to small size not very good. But there’s another way to fly, and unlike wings or aerodynamic surfaces to such animals failed to think of: electrohydrodynamic thrust, which requires no moving parts, just electricity.
Electrohydrodynamic (EHD) engines, which are sometimes called ion engines, used vysokovoltnoe electric field to create a plasma of ionized air. Ions (mainly positively charged nitrogen molecules) are attracted to the negatively charged grid and on the way fall into the neutral air molecules, giving them momentum, which is born of the ion thrust.
The idea, in fact, not particularly new: the General phenomenon has been known for several hundred years, and some people thought that it can be used in manned aircraft. However, to lift a person, you will need an incredibly large structure of the emitters and collector arrays.
In 2003, a huge ion the plane flew mouse Orville, but in addition to the nice pictures we received nothing. The technology has become practical.
Before you ionocraft, which is currently being developed at the University of California at Berkeley. It’s tiny — just 2 by 2 inches, weighs 30 mg and 37 mg — hydrostabilized (although the energy takes over the wire). On a small scale, the lack of moving parts becomes a serious advantage, because you don’t have to worry about how to scale the mechanical components such as transmission, below the point when they will stop working. Given the weight of hydrostability ionocraft could take off and soar when the input signal is 2000 volts with a voltage slightly below 0,35 mA.
Magic, isn’t it? No moving parts, total silence and a flying machine. Larger engines on EHD can be impractical, but zoom out in fact makes them better, because electrostatic forces do not depend on scale. This means that small engines have a better ratio of thrust to weight and lower voltage requirements. And on a small scale, the advantage of ionocraft before FMAV of a similar size that you can design a controller with quadratorum as a starting point, because ionocraft uses four grid thruster in the same configuration Since it does not have rotating propellers, he can’t take advantage of the change of the angular momentum to rotate, however, uses an interesting scheme of yaw, while he has space to maneuver.
As with other flying microapparatus, the big question will be the possibility of Autonomous operation with payload. At the moment ionocraft carries a payload more than its weight, but he needs only seven wires for power, data and grounding. Scientists from Berkeley believe autonomy is achievable.
The good news is that there are many opportunities for improvements. What do you think, ion transport future? Tell us in our chat in Telegram.