Robotic cockroach crawls out of the lab into real world

Octoroach, flying bug-like robots take shape at UC Berkeley

With a name like Octoroach, you'd have to be one amazing robotic bug.

UC Berkeley researchers this week showed of two insect-like robots that could ultimately crawl into all manner of super-secret surveillance or emergency recovery applications.

One of these robots is an eight-legged sensor-laden, battery-powered device that can find its own way around a room, climb over obstacles and is affectionately known as "Octoroach." Its compliant, rather than rigid legs let it effectively mimic a cockroach scrambling across the floor.

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The other, called a Bipedal Ornithopter for Locomotion Transitioning or BOLT,  is a 13 gram ornithopter that combines Octoroach's legs with wings for flight.   In running modes, wings provide passive stability. With wing assisted running, BOLT can run at 2.5 m/sec while maintaining ground contact the researchers said.

According to one report, "BOLT could move over the rubble of a collapsed building with ease and would also be able to fly up a vertical shaft, which both have specific implications in search and rescue missions."

The robots are part of Berkeley's Biomimetic Millisystems Lab which is looking to develop robots that feature locomotion, sensing, actuation, mechanics, dynamics, and control strategies to radically improve millirobot capabilities. The lab works closely with biologists to develop models of function which can be tested on engineered and natural systems. The lab's current research is centered on all-terrain crawling using nanostructured adhesives and bioinspired flight, the group says on its Web site.  

The idea of sneaky, bug-like drones for surveillance applications is not new.  A number of projects from the Department of Defense and universities such as MIT have been developing them for a number of years now.  This article notes the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has up to that to date invested $12 million into robotic bug development since 2006 and supports cybug projects such as roaches at Texas A&M; horned beetles at University of Michigan and the University of California at Berkeley and MIT moths.

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8  

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