Friday, February 29, 2008

Swarms of nano-air vehicles

The latest IEEE Spectrum features an article on robotic insects by Robert Wood, assistant professor of electrical engineering at Harvard and principal investigator at the Harvard Microrobotics LaboratoryFly. In the article, he envisions swarms of thousands of cooperative, paper-clip sized flying robots:
Even with basic control algorithms, however, we expect microrobots to be able to perform useful roles as ad hoc mobile sensor networks. Search-and-rescue operations, hazardous environment exploration and monitoring, planetary exploration, and building inspections are just a few of the potential applications for highly agile, insect-scale rescue robots. Smart sensors on wings are not a distant dream: we predict that a fully autonomous robotic insect will be flying in laboratory conditions within five years. Five years beyond that, we could begin seeing these devices in our daily lives.