Epson parades tea cup-sized flying robot
Buzz over tiny whirlybird
Epson has developed a flying-robot that is the size of a teacup, but which is controlled remotely by Bluetooth for the duration of its three-minute flights.
The FR-II micro flying-robot is the latest in a long line of Seiko Epson's flying micro-robots. The craft can take off, vary its altitude, follow flight path instructions and hover. It also has an image sensor unit, which allows it to transmit images back to the controller on land.
On board is a 32-bit microcontroller, a motor, a digital camera that sends low-quality images and a tiny gyro-sensor. The robot is 13.6cm tall and 8.5cm in width. It weighs around 12.3 grams and can fly for approximately three minutes.
Its creators say it could be used in rescue operations within two years, to beam back pictures of dangerous places.
The craft will be displayed at the Emerging Technology Fair in Tokyo at the end of the month, where its features will be demonstrated in "artistic aerial performances."
Epson has a proud history in flying robots, which it develops using what it calls its "micromechatronics" technologies. Its first flying robot was Monsieur, listed as the world's smallest micro-robot in the Guinness Book of Records in 1993. Since then the company has developed and sold a number of flying robots in its EMRoS series.
The range of the FR prototype was limited by the length of the power cord attaching it to an external battery, and although it was radio-controlled, it had to be kept within sight of the operator while flying. With FR II, the flying range has been extended by developing fully wireless operation paired with independent flight capability.
Epson was assisted in FR II's development by Chiba University's Nonami Laboratory in developing the control system for independent flight. The company also received advice on the rotor design from the Kawachi Laboratory at the University of Tokyo.