"We've had robots in the past that have flown but they haven't stabilized themselves in flight and couldn't generate enough body torques," Ma said. "The new design controls each wing separately. That was another huge innovation."
Wood says the robo-bee project is resulting in a lot of spin-off technologies that can be used for other sorts of micro-manufacturing, as well as understanding biological questions about flies and bees themselves.
"We foresee a lot of technology fallout from those solutions," he said. "If you have those devices, they can also be useful for answering open scientific questions: why is an insect wing shaped like it is? If you can make wings with insect like properties, then perhaps you could use these tools to ask functional biology or morphology questions."
The process of building a miniature flying robot has also attracted young people into the world of science and engineering, according to Wood.
"These devices have a high coolness factor," he said. "It's easy to get kids excited about this. This is what you could be doing if you chose a career in science and engineering."