A report presents a scenario for the proposed development of insectlike robots that would be equipped with microsensors and/or micromanipulators, and would be designed, variously, to crawl, burrow, swim, fly, or hop, to perform specific tasks in fields as diverse as exploration, micropositioning, and surgery. In part, the report reiterates and extends previous discussions of this concept from a number of previous NASA Tech Briefs articles and supporting documents, including those mentioned in the immediately preceding article. One notable feature not mentioned previously is a proposed hierarchical scheme in which insectlike exploratory robots would communicate with fewer larger, more-complex robots, and so forth up a hierarchy to a central robot or instrumentation system. The report discusses the historical background of the concept, presents an overview of the uses and functions of the robots, describes the objective and justification for a program of research and development, and summarizes the potential technological and economic advantages offered by the proposed robots. The report goes on to discuss the advanced fabrication, actuator, computer, sensing, computing and power-supply technology that must be developed and refined to implement insectlike mobility and functionality for various robotic tasks. A list of tentative development goals is presented; the final goal in this list is the demonstration of an insectlike exploratory robot in the year 2001 and beyond.

This work was done by Sarita Thakoor of Caltech for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. To obtain a copy of the report, "Insect-Explorer Technology Development: Exploration of New/Hazardous Territory," access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at www.techbriefs.com under the Machinery/Automation category, or circle no. 109on the TSP Order Card in this issue to receive a copy by mail ($5 charge).


This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
Development of small, mobile, special-purpose robots

(reference NPO20267) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the March, 1998 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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