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Last Updated: Friday, 19 September, 2003, 18:05 GMT 19:05 UK
Eden plays host to flying robot
Flybot can beam camera signals back to observers on the ground
The prototype of a pioneering flying robot was launched on its maiden flight in Cornwall.

The so-called flybot is designed to help scientists conduct research in rainforests.

The test flight took place in the humid tropic biomes at the Eden Project.

Combining science, art and technology, it is equipped with a camera and will be used to monitor the growing tree canopy.

The plan is that the robot will make regular flights, carrying out a range of tasks.

Apart from deep space and deep sea, this is the most corrosive environment to work in
Tim MacMillan
Eventually it is hoped it will be able to take specimens from the trees for analysis.

Its designers hope that flybot could be a prototype for more sophisticated robots which could operate in rainforests around the world.

The aim would be to help scientists carry out research among the tree tops.

Creator Tim MacMillan said it took two years to develop before it took to the air.

"I got the idea after chatting with the scientists here. They wanted to see what was happening in the tops of the trees.

"It's a very difficult environment to work in. You can't just put a ladder up, the trees are too tall.

Eden project
The test flight took place in the humid tropic biomes
"So I said what we need is some sort of robot. And now, here we are, with flybot looking in the tops of trees and seeing interesting things."

The robot has to be reasonably hardy and after two weeks of tests apparently already has colony of ants living in it.

Tim MacMillan said: "Apart from deep space and deep sea, this is the most corrosive environment to work in.

"After another two years of research and development, we can hopefully have a machine which is reasonably bomb-proof"

The current machine will be kept at the project.

Tony Kendle of the Eden Foundation said: "This is a view that most of our visitors never get to see, and flybot presents a window into a world of incredible riches which exists in the tropics."

Visitors who see flybot in action will be able to see what it is observing on giant screens in the biome's visitor area.

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