Shoo, mechanical fly, shoo

Ransom Riggs

What's next -- robotic wasps and parasites? Don't scientists at Harvard have better things to spend their time on? Actually, no: researchers say that tiny flying machines could make excellent spies, or could be used to detect harmful chemicals (not unlike robotic canaries, it would seem). From the Harvard Technology Review (via the Cellar):

A life-size, robotic fly has taken flight at Harvard University. Weighing only 60 milligrams, with a wingspan of three centimeters, the tiny robot's movements are modeled on those of a real fly. "Nature makes the world's best fliers," says Robert Wood, leader of Harvard's robotic-fly project and a professor at the university's school of engineering and applied sciences. The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is funding Wood's research in the hope that it will lead to stealth surveillance robots for the battlefield and urban environments. The robot's small size and fly-like appearance are critical to such missions. "You probably wouldn't notice a fly in the room, but you certainly would notice a hawk," Wood says.

So the next time your schizophrenic neighbor tells you the bugs in his house are watching him, don't be so quick to call the booby hatch -- he could be onto something.