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It took nature millions of years and endless evolutionary experiments to build a flying insect. Berkeley electrical engineering professor Ron Fearing and team looked to nature and the pioneering experiments of Berkeley biologist Michael Dickinson in an attempt to distill the lessons of insect flight down to the fundamentals.

As Dickinson began to unlock the aerodynamic secrets of how insects fly, the engineers found themselves at a disadvantage to nature. Life builds on its past successes, adapting that which survives to new circumstances. Features that are useful show up in new creatures.

Engineers like Fearing, however, did not have a huge, existing toolbox of robotic features to draw upon. In terms of parts on the shelf, there were no muscles, no wings. Despite that, after three years of effort, his team has met a major milestone. They have a robotic creature - something that flaps and is the right size.

For more about Michael Dickinson's research, see the Robofly site.
   

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