Israeli scientists at Tel Aviv University have designed a small robot inspired by locusts—those of Passover and 10 Plagues fame—that could play an important role in conducting automated surveillance and emergency response.
Lead researcher Professor Amir Ayali of the Department of Zoology at Tel Aviv University’s Faculty of Life Sciences told Reuters he was inspired by the locust’s jumping mechanism.
“The locust, being a large insect that has wonderful jumping performance, offered itself as a wonderful inspiration for this specific idea of a jumping miniature robot,” Ayali explained.
The little robot could possibly be used in the future for surveillance, and maybe for emergency response systems. But additional funding is needed for further development; the research team began the project with just $200,000 USD. More is needed to move ahead.
Made with steel springs, carbon rods and new three-dimensional printed plastic pieces, it is only four inches long (10 cm) and weighs less than one ounce (23 gr). But despite its tiny size, this robot can jump 11.5 feet (3.5 meters) into the air, for 1,000 jumps, due to its lithium battery.
Its motor, structure and energy storage all combine to create the capability of withstanding the long jump, and high acceleration, Ayali said. Because the parts are relatively inexpensive, he estimates the cost per robot at about $100 USD.
The researcher is hoping to develop mechanisms of swarming capabilities in the robotic systems. He is being encouraged by Hungarian-born Dr. Gabor Kosa of TAU’s Faculty of Engineering, who also dreams of a swarm of robo-locusts.
Kosa has a broader vision — a swarm installed with GPS navigation systems, cameras and solar panels for renewable energy – a swarm that can enter enemy territory for surveillance operations.
Kosa is hoping to build a robotic system capable of multiple jumps, with a robo-locust that can spread its wings, and fly.
Christopher B. Taub