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UAVs, biobots for mapping unexplored territories

Researchers at North Carolina State University, USA, have developed a combination of software and hardware that will allow them to use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and insect cyborgs, or biobots, to map large, unfamiliar areas such as collapsed buildings after a disaster.

Edgar Lobaton, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State and co-author of the paper, says, “The idea is to release a swarm of sensor-equipped biobots, like remotely-controlled cockroaches, into a collapsed building or other dangerous, unmapped area.”

He adds, “Using remote-control technology, we would restrict the movement of the biobots to a defined area. That area would be defined by proximity to a beacon on a UAV. For example, the biobots may be prevented from going more than 20 metres from the UAV.”

The application has utility for areas like collapsed buildings where GPS cannot be used (Image courtesy: https://news.ncsu.edu)
The application has utility for areas like collapsed buildings where GPS cannot be used (Image courtesy: https://news.ncsu.edu)

The biobots would be allowed to move freely within a defined area and would signal researchers via radio waves whenever these would get close to each other. Custom software would then use an algorithm to translate biobot sensor data into a rough map of the unknown environment.

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