North Carolina State University researchers will use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and insect cyborgs, or biobots, to map large, unfamiliar locations.
“The idea would be to release a swarm of sensor-equipped biobots – such as remotely controlled cockroaches – into a collapsed building or other dangerous, unmapped area,” says Edgar Lobaton, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State and co-author of two papers describing the work.
The researchers' remote-control hardware and software restrict the biobots' movement to a defined area, defined by proximity to a beacon or UAV. The biobots move freely within the specified area and signal researchers, via radio waves, whenever they approach each other. Custom software then uses an algorithm to translate the biobot sensor data into a rough map of the unknown environment.
Once the program receives enough data to map the defined area, the UAV moves forward to hover over an adjacent, unexplored section. The biobots move with it, and the mapping process is repeated. The software program then stitches the new map to the previous one. The process is repeated until the entire region or structure has been mapped; that map could then be used by first responders or other authorities.
Also: Read about NASA's Sonar Inspection Robot System.