Rise of the mechanical creepy crawlies
As news filtered through of the latest unmanned vehicle to have drawn inspiration from the animal kingdom, now is a good a time as any to take a peek at its contemporaries and what lies ahead for drones intent on crawling, buzzing, swimming and sliding their way into production.
Once consigned to the well-worn pages of dystopian novels, it looks very likely that in the not-too-distant future we’ll come to wonder whether the wasp doing laps around the tabouli is after a taste or conducting a reconnaissance mission.
A few years ago the US office for hair-brained schemes, otherwise known as DARPA, asked one OEM to build a functioning hummingbird-esque UAS. And so they did, creating a light Nano Hummingbird, weighing in at a mere 19g, including on board video camera ‘payload’.
Harvard University is also pursuing a series of projects aimed at creating insect-sized and style UAS to perform all manner of tasks. Perhaps one of the more negative predictions of future uses of such technology was made by a professor from the university earlier this year, who suggested artificial mosquitoes could steal DNA from unsuspecting members of the public for government monitoring purposes.
Researchers in Italy at the Research Centre on Sea Technologies and Marine Robotics are exploring the potential for Octopus AUVs, which gained widespread attention last year. The articulation of multiple limbs and appendages while under the ocean waves would certainly provide underwater systems another tool to their belt and offer a path to increasing diversification in the watery element.
And what about the ground you ask? Well aside from our slithery friend mentioned above, there are a range of programmes in the pipeline. Boston Dynamics in the US looks like leading the way again, with a range of four-legged, bipedal, lizard-like, or bug-inspired platforms.
What creature (great or small) do you think would work as inspiration for an unmanned platform?