Biomimicry: Insect-Inspired Micro-Robots For Stealthy Surveillance

Micro-robots, smaller than a penny

Drawing inspiration from tiny insects, researchers at the University of Maryland, are developing the world’s tiniest mobile robot, suitably named as micro robots. These tiny robots are designed to take the long distance leap just as bugs do, with the aim of moving quickly or jump over any obstacle with ease in extremely rough terrain. Sarah Bergbreiter leading the research and other teammates from UM, envision the micro robots helping rescue teams in searching victims by quickly crawling through the rubble, at the disaster site, where humans and other traditional robots might just not reach. 

As the name suggests, these micro bots are as small as a tip of a human finger, in other words, even smaller than a penny.

micro bots

US National Science Foundation (NSF) is supporting Sarah and her team, who is currently working to understand and simulate the properties that are displayed by insect legs. But biomimicry is not easy, and researchers need to find a solution for storing energy that are required for long distance jump and speed bursts in machines. Once this is achieved, the small sized robot can easily transverse at high speed, just like insects do to clear any obstacles, even in rugged terrain.

Micro-robots under microscope

The researchers are planning to create bigger robots, to test the efficiency of different materials and designs and technological demonstration and then would move to scaling them to minute sizes as per the requirement. The prototypes of the robots are so tiny that they could only be created under a microscope. The team plans to test the mobility of minute robots, first using magnets, rather than motors.

bot legs

According to Sarah, eventually the micro robots will become highly capable and efficient as mobile sensor platforms that would move with an insect like speed through the real environment. These can serve to fulfill various purposes as helping in search operation for victims after any natural calamity and deployed as a low cost sensor for surveillance.

In the future, similar to termite-inspired robots, TERMES that are capable of interacting with each other and working, these micro robots might be used for constructing other large size robots.

Here is the project video by National Science Foundation:

Source: National Science Foundation

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