Swarms of cybernetic cockroaches controlled via drone could provide detailed mapping and infrastructure data on collapsed buildings following a disaster, according to Engineering.com.
Developed by researchers at North Carolina State University, the systems features remote-control implants that can contain the swarm within a moveable, geo-fenced area identified by a UAV, while sensors upload detailed mapping data to the cloud.
- The so-called “biobots” are seen as an alternative to humans entering disaster and other hazardous areas to locate survivors and provide information on the integrity of damaged buildings and infrastructure.
Building and construction technologies related to insects are typically focused on mitigation, area-denial or extermination. Here, researchers hope to implant entire swarms of cockroaches with sensors to enable remote control and data collection and transfer for detailed site mapping. Although Harvard University scientists have previously adapted insectoid building and swarming systems to robots for distributed task completion, direct chip implant to insects for control and communication is still a nascent technology.
Field trials are next up for the biobot developers at NC State, who have completed proof-of-concept testing on UAV proximity locaters to confine and guide the cyberbugs via geolocation. Bugs within a swarm can also be adapted for task-specific functions, depending on the level of electronics incorporated into their array backpacks. The researchers are already using high-resolution microphones to detect and transmit sound data (top image) in addition to geolocation.
While biobot cybernetics rely on small systems and implants, the technology could get even smaller, alleviating the logistics of physically implanting thousands or millions of bugs with chips and wires. Nanotechnology applications are on the rise in the construction industry and could help introduce cyber-sensors en masse at a microscopic level, which would raise the broader prospect of incorporating bio-metrics into all phases of construction.