US scientists have developed a life-sized robotic ‘fly’, capable of flight, which could be used for covert surveillance.

The fly, which weighs 60mg and has a wingspan of 3cm, was developed at Harvard University by Robert Wood.

The research was funded by the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency in the hope that it would lead to stealth surveillance robots for the battlefield and urban environments.

Although robots that mimic insects have been built before this is the first time one has been able to fly.

The fly takes off using the same motions as a real fly but at this stage can only fly in an upwards direction.

The researchers are working on a flight controller so it can move in different directions, an onboard power source, software to allow it to avoid obstacles and tiny sensors that could detect chemicals or record sound.

By Elizabeth Clifford-Marsh