In disasters such as earthquakes, sturdy robots might become excellent search and rescue tools. Industrial Design Engineering student Mattijs Otten of the TU Delft Robotics Institute in the Netherlands developed modular autonomous robots called Zebro to aid in these potentially dangerous situations. Equipped with audio sensors, a ‘self-deploying sensor network’ and the ability to call for human assistance, they can swarm en masse like insects across difficult or damaged terrains to search for anyone who needs help. From TUDelft.nl:

Once one Zebro in the swarm observes something of interest, it transmits a signal to the closest other Zebro. This Zebro passes on the signal, creating a path that could lead the emergency services directly to the victim trapped under the rubble.

It is comparable to a colony of ants looking for food: one ant is not capable of indicating where the food is to the group, but using their own intelligent communication network, the group as a whole does know where to head. That is the strength of a swarm.

The inexpensive and brightly colored hexapod robots, seen in the Science Museum video above, are designed to be easy to build and repair, made from “more than 200 components, most of which can be clicked together like Lego bricks.”

Check out what appears to be an earlier version of the Zebro, as well as some other search and rescue drones under development, in this TUDelft video from 2015:

Next, watch Flying Robot Orchestra, building a Volcano-bot, Flight Assembled Architecture, the incredible jumping Sand Flea robot, and Can A Thousand Tiny Swarming Robots Outsmart Nature?

Bonus: Festo’s animal-inspired robots.

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