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These Disposable Mini-Robots Can Save Lives

16 June 2016, 10:33 pm EDT By Katrina Pascual Tech Times
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They’re small but terrible. A new set of sophisticated mini-robots can run, climb, fly and even serve in search-and-rescue efforts.

Size is key in today’s fast-paced, emergency-ridden world: mini-robots are much cheaper to make than the big boys and can be better deployed in risky situations than their larger counterparts, which could be hampered by limited mobility.

Researchers from the Biomimetic Millisystems Lab of University of California, Berkeley — funded by the National Robotics Initiative of the National Science Foundation (NSF) — developed small micro-bots that reportedly cost just $10 to $100 and can operate on a one-time use, disposable rescue missions.

“The lab works closely with biologists to develop models of function which can be tested on engineered and natural systems,” the UC Berkeley lab said on its website. “[Our] current research is centered on all-terrain crawling using nanostructured adhesives and bioinspired flight.”

Inverse has provided a rundown of these mini-robots, three of which were launched in May, and with two taking off from 2015 designs.

Jumping-Crawling Robot

This mini-robot is 10 centimeters (3.9 inches) in length and can jump 2 meters (6.6 feet) high via its springboard legs akin to roaches’. After landing, its wings expand to get it back up and move along to its target location.

This high-tech crawler can independently adjust its jumping prowess and speed in order to situate itself on top of or over different kinds of surfaces.

Step Climbing Robot

Here, the dynamic duo of two six-legged millirobots crosses complex terrains. One gets its front legs up over a given step, while the other clings to the first robot through a string and then push it over the hump. The first robot serves as an anchor for its companion to pull itself up.

"Origami" Robot

This tiny machine can fold ribbon, thus origami, from a 2D plane into a 3D object — hardly impressive if one thinks about it, but proves useful when one considers that the ribbons could transform into the robots’ replacement parts and serve as a self-healing, self-repair mechanism someday. Think The Terminator.

Running Robot

At just 54 grams (1.9 ounces) this mini-robot speeds along and lays claim to being the fastest of its kind considering its size. Take note of the insect-like legs — and make sure to not miss the cute little bugger.

Flapping Winged Robot

This autonomous robot with flapping wings takes off with the help of a separate roach robot. It boasts of “energy advantages over rotary and fixed wing fliers,” potentially allowing systems this small to carry heavier burdens.

The researchers will coordinate with California Task Force 3 Urban Search and Rescue to find people stuck in collapsed buildings, according to the NSF. The mini-robots can also help detect sulfide leaks in oil refineries as well as assist in the event of a massive earthquake.

The team is also paying attention to how easily the robots can be manufactured, although challenges like maneuvering effectively through small holes and obstacles remain present.

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