02 November 2009

Scientists to build swarm of world's most advanced flying microbots


Jeez, wouldn't it be fun to have your own swarm of robot bees? Someone at Harvard thought so, convincing the National Science Foundation to pony up $10 million for the development of a whole colony full of wing-flapping bee bots. The project will challenge the scientists to build the world's most advanced flying microbots, creating swarms of tiny autonomous individuals that can make their own decisions, dock with each other, simulate pollination, and contribute to the entire group.

"Inspired by the biology of a bee and the insect's hive behavior, we aim to push advances in miniature robotics and the design of compact high-energy power sources; spur innovations in ultra-low-power computing and electronic "smart" sensors; and refine coordination algorithms to manage multiple, independent machines. BTW, our robobees don't sting..."

The Harvard researchers have a head start: They'll take what they learned with a life-sized robotic fly they created in 2007, improve upon its tiny brain and smart sensors, and then develop software that exploits the advantages of hive intelligence. This is going to be amazing. How will they fit power sources, computing devices and navigation inside a package the size of a bee? Let's just hope they use this for good, and not for evil.

Check out this diagram of one of the robotic flying sea monkeys:



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