Israeli researchers have developed a high-jumping locust lookalike robot that they hope could one day replace humans in military or search-and-rescue operations. Nathan Frandino reports.
With the power of the locust... Israeli researchers in Tel Aviv say they're jumping into the future of autonomous technology. And their six-legged grasshopper friends are not just along for the ride. They are the inspiration. Amir Ayali is a zoology professor at Tel Aviv University's Faculty of Life Sciences. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROFESSOR AMIR AYALI OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ZOOLOGY AT TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY'S FACULTY OF LIFE SCIENCES SAYING: "The locust uses mechanical energy in addition to its muscle force in order to generate a jump and this is exactly what we are imitating or what we are inspired by." By examining the jumping movements of the locust, Ayali and his team, which includes members of the engineering school, sought to build on past attempts for a better, improved robot. And by using carbon rods, steel springs and 3D printed plastic pieces, they created the 'TAUB' robot. This single lithium battery-powered robot can jump up to 11.5 feet. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROFESSOR AMIR AYALI OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ZOOLOGY AT TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY'S FACULTY OF LIFE SCIENCES SAYING: "We are using a tiny motor that generates, or stores mechanical energy, and this mechanical energy in springs is actually very similar to the locust legs is what propels the robot into the air". Ayali says TAUB is cheap and easy to manufacture. He estimated the price of a robot at $100. It's possible uses, he says, are endless. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROFESSOR AMIR AYALI OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ZOOLOGY AT TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY'S FACULTY OF LIFE SCIENCES SAYING: "What you do with it is whatever is needed whenever you want to engage any kind of robotic system with no human interference or intervention at all. It could be used in rescue and oil clean spills, I mean, whatever you can come up with". And right now they're trying to come up with more money, so they can make their robot jump higher and maybe even fly... just like the locust.