A quad flying drone? A walking robot? What happens if you put these two technology advancements together, but in a very microscopic size?
Recently, engineers and researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have designed and created a lightweight robot that has many capabilities. You might be a bit confused as their size appears to be a lot like a swarming pact of flying bugs and insects. Surprisingly as it only weighs 30 grams, you will be awed to what this robot drone can do.
After given the name "Picobug" this robot drone was inspired by the movement and flight of a stag beetle. According to PBS, Picobug has the ability to fly up to 13 miles per hour, and walk across a 10-foot-table in about 19 seconds. It can fly, climb, jump, and glide. The robot drone has an insane top flying speed of 6 meters/second and could crawl 0.16 meters/second, according to SPECTRUM.com. SPECTRUM also states that its weight of 30 grams is equivalent to the weight of a third of a regular battery. Its super lightweight makes the robot drone have to capabilities to easily transition from walking and crawling to flying, or the other way around. It is a microscopic quadcopter and walking robot that also accommodates cameras that could be closely possible for surveillance recording.
In fact, surveillance recording is one of the very couple key points that Yash Mulgaonkar, researcher at the University of Pennsylvania's GRASP laboratory, has in mind for Picobug. Not only surveillance, but Yash Mulgaonkar strongly claims, "The robot could be used to explore nuclear reactors or similar facilities where the Picobug would be better able to navigate through any air ducts, holes, or any other confined spaces, Mulgaonkar told IEEE Spectrum." This shows that Yash wants the robot drone to be used in such instances that other robots can't be used in, especially because of it's specifically microscopic size like the: air ducts, holes, confined spaces, etc.
On the other hand, according to Quartz.com, Yash Mulgaonkar also clearly believes that their robot drone will have a griping and grabbing mechanism for their 'undercover' purposes, as they are still developing this on their robot. So it seems like Yash Mulgaonkar wants this development of this robot drone to be mostly on the 'surveillance and undercover' category, other than using this robot for other uses. It also seems like the factual small size is one of the very couple reasons that made the decision to use it for surveillance purposes.
It sounds like the University of Pennsylvania is trying to make their use of the robot drone into more of a spying and surveillance type of robot. The engineers and researchers are taking information from the real world on what they already know, the concept of a stag beetle, to use that to make their own robot. We know that it will be used most likely for surveillance, but what we still don't know and ponder, is that what specific type or use of surveillance will it be added to. Just like how Yash Mulgaonkar said, he waned to perform surveillance in possible areas like to explore nuclear reactors. Will this insanely microscopic robot drone be used with the Police, Federal Government, or even possibly the FBI?
1) First image courtesy of spectrum.ieee.org. 2) Second image from techyhuman.com. 3) Final image from care2.com.