Insect-Hybrid Robot

Insect Hybrid Robot
Carrying a “backpack”, these insects will be sent into the debris to look for survivors. (Photo: HTX)

In the aftermath of a collapsed building, it is difficult and hazardous for frontline responders to access confined spaces in search of survivors trapped beneath debris. The idea of deploying state-of-the-art miniaturised robots has also posed a challenge due to their high amount of power consumption for locomotion, which limits their operational lifespan to a few minutes. This makes them unsuitable for search and rescue missions, which may span several hours or even days.

In search for an alternative solution, HTX is working with the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Klass Engineering and Solutions to explore the use of insect-hybrid robots. For this collaboration HTX has leveraged on the insect-hybrid robot expertise of Professor Hirotaka Sato, the Provost’s Chair in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at NTU.

As the insect is able to move on its own, power saved can be used for other modules such as autonomous navigation, human detection and communication. Leveraging on its small size, it can navigate through small spaces and search for survivors in hours-long operations.

Features: The backpack contains a suite of devices that helps to achieve the following features.

1. Autonomous navigation. Multiple insects can be randomly dispersed to cover a search area on their own without user control. Insects are controlled by sending electrical stimuli to their neuromuscular sites, which direct them to move left, right or to accelerate forward.

2. Human detection. Using its onboard infra-red camera and machine learning algorithm, it is able to detect heat signatures under dark conditions and differentiate humans from other hot objects. An alert will be sent to the operator only when a potential person is detected.

3. Non-line-of-sight communication. The location of the insects can be tracked in real-time using ultra-wideband (UWB), with the path taken displayed on a user interface.

The innovative use of insect-hybrid robots will protect frontline responders and augment the Home Team’s life-saving capabilities.

Coming Next

Currently there are still limitations in the prototype. Work is in progress to weatherproof the backpack and enhance communications. Additionally, a quick deployable kit will be designed to reduce the setup time of the backpack and make on-site deployment easier for users.


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