Insect-Controlled Robotic Car Could Help Sniff Out Explosives


Autonomous robots capable of finding an odor source could be very important for safety and security applications like the detection of disaster victims, of illicit drugs or explosive materials at an airport, and of hazardous material spills in the environment. A new study from the University of Tokyo suggests that drug-sniffing dogs may soon have a workplace competitor. Their insect-piloted robotic vehicle could help scientists build better odor-tracking robots. The insect-controlled robot is driven by an actual silkmoth and enables the researchers to evaluate the odor-tracking capability of insects through a robotic platform. In the robot's cockpit, a tethered adult male silkmoth walked on an air-supported ball in response to the female sex pheromone, which was delivered to each antenna through air suction tubes. The ball rotations caused by the walking of the onboard moth were measured by an optical sensor and were translated into the movement of the two-wheeled robot.