Harvard designs ‘RoboBee’ that can dive into water

Harvard designs ‘RoboBee’ that can dive into water

At 2cm tall and 175mg in weight – that’s a fifteenth the weight of 1p coin – Robobees are now 1,000 times lighter than any previous aerial-to-aquatic robot.

Harvard scientists have been working on robotic bees for years, first unveiling them in 2013. These tiny robots have evolved from simply flying to now sticking to walls and even diving in and out of water. So why do these Robobees matter?

Robobees are years in the making

The Robobee was first developed by mechanical engineering student Robert Wood in 1991.

Since then engineers at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Wyss Institute for Biologically-Inspired Engineering have been working on the project. The Robobee’s movements are based on larger amphibious drones capable of the same manoeuvres; the device can
stick to walls, fly, dive into the water, swim and propel out of the water.

The technology is being designed with the aim to eventually be used in search missions. Deploying Robobees to explore a situation before sending in bigger machines to rescue people could save lives: essentially their small size enables them to scope out a situation before going in with the bigger rescue missions.

Other potential uses are surveillance, high-res weather and environment monitoring and crop pollination. The ability to go in and out of water is then is a great accomplishment, as it can help in underwater searches. For a robot so tiny to be able to break through the surface tension of water is a huge achievement.

What’s the technology behind a Robobee?

The bee is kitted with what could be called a miniature combustible jet. It uses buoyancy chambers – or floaties – to swim to the surface, and a plate inside the chambers converting the water into oxyhydrogen.


For a robot so tiny to be able to break through the surface tension of water is a huge achievement.


Once the wings are above water the oxyhydrogen is combustible, and once ignited rocket the RoboBee into the air. The force of breaking surface tension has been described by Robert Wood, Charles River Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences, as feeling “like an impenetrable wall” and the robot swimming as feeling “like it is surrounded by molasses”.

The surface tension is more than ten times the weight of the RoboBee, and three times its maximum lift. After creating a robot bee that swims in 2016, completing the challenge to find a way for the bee to then break its way back out of the water is a huge step towards a RoboBee that is controlled remotely for its potential uses.

Harvard is also working on patenting the RoboBees commercial opportunities – one day you may even be able to acquire your own little robot bee.

robobee, News, Harvard designs ‘RoboBee’ that can dive into water

Bekki Barnes

With 5 years’ experience in marketing, Bekki has knowledge in both B2B and B2C marketing. Bekki has worked with a wide range of brands, including local and national organisations.

Personalization is the beating heart of successful hybrid cloud

Amber Donovan-Stevens • 27th November 2021

In the post-millennial era of real world cloud deployment, the modern digitally distributed nature of businesses requires a range of infrastructure options to allow each customer to leverage a mix of cloud technologies to best suit their unique needs while optimizing the associated costs. How can we enable this kind of flexibility in the face...

The Best Ten Rated Cloud Security Management Options For Business

Erin Laurenson • 24th November 2021

Cloud Security programs that can carry out safety procedures and address or flag potential high-risk elements are now critical, allowing businesses to function normally without fearing a potential breach. To help you find the best Cloud management and security system for your business, we’ve done the research and found the top systems presently available on...

How the cloud can drive organizational sustainability goals

Amber Donovan-Stevens • 24th October 2021

Mark Hughes, RVP of UK & Ireland, Epicor, explores cloud computing’s implications for organisational sustainability practices and introduces the key findings of Epicor’s survey of technology decision-makers in the US and the UK.xplains how cloud technology can spearhead an organizations sustainability initiatives.