“Because the laser alone can’t provide enough voltage to move the wings, the team designed a circuit that boosts the 7 volts coming out of the photovoltaic cell up to the 240 volts needed for flight. To give RoboFly control over its own wings, the engineers added a microcontroller to the same circuit, which acts like its brain, according to Vikram Iyer, a doctoral student in the UW Department of Electrical Engineering who is part of Fuller’s team. “It tells the wings things like, ‘Flap hard now’ or ‘Don’t flap,'” he said.”

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