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
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
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.
Interested to find out more or discuss further?
connect with us: HTX_TechX@htx.gov.sg