Researchers at Leiden University in The Netherlands have for some time been working on a small, bug-like robot. The robot is about two inches long and three fourths of an inch wide. It is made to look as close to a large cockroach as possible, and it is outfitted with six legs, two wings, and a tiny propeller. These features allow the robot to crawl on and stick to walls, and to fly very quickly. In order for the bot to take flight, it must crawl onto a relatively high place, such as a roof or even the ceiling of a large room. It then spreads its wings which are made to work much like those of a stealth bomber, serving as ailerons and elevators, and picks up velocity with the combined use of gravity and its propeller. Once the bot is moving fast enough, the propeller, which is mounted on the rear and usually hidden by the folded wings, is enough to speed the bot through all indoor and most outdoor conditions.
The above describes the Insecten Vlak (a temporary working name, which translates to “Insect Plane” in english) as it is meant to function. However, the bug plane is far from perfect in testing. So far, it only functions when operated remotely by a highly skilled engineer, though it is planned to be made semi-autonomous in the coming years. And while the wall walking is fairly consistent, the flight is far from it. In the seventy-eight test flights where anything resembling flight was achieved, as opposed to simply buzzing and falling, the bug plane has only been brought to a landing without significant damage four times. There doesn’t seem to be any clear purpose to the little bot other than trying to bring a really cool idea to life. And as far as robotics goes, sometimes that is all the purpose one needs.