Robot grasshoppers could carry out future search & rescue

Nature might once again educate robot design, as engineers Dario Floreano and Mirko Kovac of the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems in Lausanne turn to grasshoppers for the next generation of search and exploration devices.  The pair noted that grasshoppers handle uneven terrain by hopping, clearing up to three feet at a time and avoiding climbing over rocks and other obstacles; small robots have the same problems tackling such terrain, and so Floreano and Kovac built tiny robots that can jump up to eight feet using spring-loaded legs.

The springs are powered with a tiny motor, similar to that which gives a cellphone its vibrate alert ability, and despite the whole thing weighing just seven grams and standing two inches tall, it can carry half its weight in cameras, microphones or other sensors.  While getting up into the air is straightforward, landings are trickier; Floreano and Kovac intend to use gliding technology learnt from building a 1.5-gram robot plane last year to allow the grasshopper to gradually coast to the ground.

As well as search and rescue, the robots could have applications in environmental monitoring and other exploration.  The work is categorized as biomimetics, where natural biology is used to further science.

[via Core77]