AAAS/Science

Video: Flylike robot uses static electricity to stick to ceilings

Once you get a robot flying, you also have to figure out a way to make it land. Sticky pads, magnets, and even tiny spikes can help. But tiny robots have some unique tools at their disposal, according to a new study. Researchers have shown that a wasp-sized, insect-inspired flying robot they debuted in 2013 can make use of the so-called electrostatic force to stick to surfaces. That’s the force that makes objects with opposite charge attract to each other—the same force that makes your hair stick to a comb. The machine wields tiny, flexible copper electrodes to alter the surface’s electric charge to be the opposite of the robot’s. That makes it stick to the surface—anything from a panel of glass to a leaf. The bot also uses only 7 microwatts of electricity when perching—it goes through about 2700 times that when it flies, according to a study today in Science. Every watt counts: If these insect-sized robots are ever going to fly off the tether and out of the lab, they’ll have to carry their own power with them.