Newly invented robot locusts will be used in surveillance and rescue operations, scientists are now hoping.
The miniature autonomous devices are known as TAUB, which is actually an abbreviation for “Tel Aviv University and Ort Braude College”, the two academic institutions which have joined forces in creating the bio-robots.
The gadgets had been commissioned by Pearls of Wisdom, a non-profit organization meant to further the progress of nanotechnology in Israel.
As explained by Amir Ayali, TAUB’s main developer and professor of zoology at the Faculty of Life Sciences from Tel Aviv University, the source of inspiration has been the intricate and highly effective leaping mechanism employed by real-life locusts.
Apparently, these swarming grasshoppers resort both to their strong muscles and to their incredible energy of motion and position in order to execute complex jumps flawlessly.
The same process was kept in mind when devising TAUB: the robot locust is capable of bouncing over distances reaching 11.5 feet, being gracefully propelled thanks to its ability to maintain and produce high levels of elastic and kinetic energy, coupled with its aerodynamic design and its sturdy motor.
The autonomous mechanical insect is operated by a lithium battery, and its energy consumption is so incredibly low that as many as 1,000 leaps can be performed before the miniature gadget has to be charged again.
Speaking of its diminutive proportions, the robot locust measures just around 4 inches in length, and weighs a mere 0.8 ounces (23 grams).
Its structure consists of carbon fiber rods, coupled with 3D-printed plastic components, while its propelling springs are made of steel.
TAUB’s developers are now hoping that such jumping devices could actually enter mass production, given that manufacturing them is relatively simple, while individual parts aren’t that cost-prohibitive.
Overall, it is believed that the robot locusts would come with a price tag of around $100 initially, with economies of scale gradually bringing down costs associated with fabrication and assemblage.
The reason why researchers are interested in making such autonomous gadgets readily available is linked to the fact that the robot locusts could be employed in various search and rescue operations.
According to Gabor Kosa, professor of engineering at Tel Aviv University, the mechanical insects could also be useful for surveillance purposes during warfare, provided that they are equipped with GPS, solar panels for recharging and video cameras.
Also, the bio-robots could be further enhanced by adding components that will permit carrying out several consecutive leaps or even flying.
Another way of improving TAUB would be by enabling it to swarm just like ordinary locusts do, but all these updates would require additional investments, especially since at the moment just around $200,000 have been dedicated to this project.
Image Source: 21st Century Tech