Design, Characterization, and Liftoff of an Insect-Scale Soft Robotic Dragonfly Powered by Dielectric Elastomer Actuators

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Article number1136
Journal / PublicationMicromachines
Issue number7
Online published18 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022



Dragonflies are agile and efficient flyers that use two pairs of wings for demonstrating exquisite aerial maneuvers. Compared to two-winged insects such as bees or flies, dragonflies leverage forewing and hindwing interactions for achieving higher efficiency and net lift. Here we develop the first at-scale dragonfly-like robot and investigate the influence of flapping-wing kinematics on net lift force production. Our 317 mg robot is driven by two independent dielectric elastomer actuators that flap four wings at 350 Hz. We extract the robot flapping-wing kinematics using a high-speed camera, and further measure the robot lift forces at different operating frequencies, voltage amplitudes, and phases between the forewings and hindwings. Our robot achieves a maximum lift-to-weight ratio of 1.49, and its net lift force increases by 19% when the forewings and hindwings flap in-phase compared to out-of-phase flapping. These at-scale experiments demonstrate that forewing–hindwing interaction can significantly influence lift force production and aerodynamic efficiency of flapping-wing robots with passive wing pitch designs. Our results could further enable future experiments to achieve feedback-controlled flights.

Research Area(s)

  • biologically inspired robot, soft robot, dielectric elastomer actuator, flapping-wing, micro-aerial-vehicle

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