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Robot Cockroach: Disasters to Be Swarmed by Creepy Rescuers

Image: Robot Cockroach: Disasters to Be Swarmed by Creepy Rescuers

The robot cockroach and the real thing. (PolyPEDAL Lab, University of California at Berkeley)

By    |   Tuesday, 09 Feb 2016 07:39 AM

Robot cockroaches could one day search for survivors in disasters like tornadoes, earthquakes and explosions, say University of California at Berkeley researchers who have found a new appreciation for the real insects.

In a study published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers said the real cockroach's exoskeleton was the inspiration behind the development of soft-shelled, search-and-rescue robot that could maneuver through the rubble and debris of a disaster area to find victims.

They even put together a video explaining the cockroach's skill and how its robot attempts to mimic it.




"Cockroaches intrude everywhere by exploiting their soft-bodied, shape-changing ability," said the study. "We discovered that cockroaches traversed horizontal crevices smaller than a quarter of their height in less than a second by compressing their bodies' compliant exoskeletons in half." 

"Once inside vertically confined spaces, cockroaches still locomoted rapidly at 20 body lengths per second using an unexplored mode of locomotion — body-friction legged crawling."

The researchers said that they found during tests that cockroaches could withstand forces up to 900 times their body weight without injury.

They said they hope their robotic cockroaches will be able to squeeze through small cracks rescue workers cannot get through to locate disaster survivors. Their current model is about the size of a palm, said Phys.org.

"What's impressive about these cockroaches is that they can run as fast through a quarter-inch gap as a half-inch gap, by reorienting their legs completely out to the side," said the study's lead author, Kaushik Jayaram. "They're about half an inch tall when they run freely, but can squish their bodies to one-tenth of an inch — the height of two stacked pennies."

Appropriately, the robot is called CRAM, the Compressible Robot with Articulated Mechanisms.

"In the event of an earthquake, first responders need to know if an area of rubble is stable and safe, but the challenge is, most robots can't get into rubble," said study co-author Robert Full, a professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley.

"But if there are lots of cracks and vents and conduits, you can imagine just throwing a swarm of these robots in to locate survivors and safe entry points for first responders." 

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Robot cockroaches could one day search for survivors in disasters like tornadoes, earthquakes and explosions, say University of California at Berkeley researchers who have found a new appreciation for the real insects.
robot, cockroach, disaster, rescuers
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2016-39-09
Tuesday, 09 Feb 2016 07:39 AM
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