The team spent 12 twelve years developing the robotic fly. Each miniature robot weighs about 80 milligrams and can flap their wings at the speed of 120 times per second to achieve flight under laboratory conditions.
The robotic insects were built from materials custom cut by laser and layered on top of each of other. Each robot has two wings which can flap independently at different speeds. Its wingspan measures a total of three centimeters. A video posted on the Harvard website showed a robot insect in flight for 10 seconds before it crashed to land.
One challenge in the development of the robotic insects is how they will cope in gusts of wind. As of now controlling very small flying robots in wind gusts is very hard.
The research team who built the robot insects believes RoboBees can be used for crop pollination as well as search and rescue operations. Monash University swarm robotics expert Jan Carlo Barca thinks the miniature robots could be used in many ways in the future. He says Robobees can be used to find blood clots or cancerous cells and help surgeons with operations. The robotic insects can also be used for environmental monitoring.
Details of the Robobee project and its flight were published by the U.S. academic journal Science last Friday.