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February 18, 2016

Small, maneuverable robots based on cockroaches could be deployed in disaster zones to find human survivors.



An uncompressed Robo-Roach. (Courtesy of PolyPEDAL Lab, UC Berkeley)


Cockroach-inspired engineering. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Bioengineer Robert Full wants to make a fast, maneuverable, nearly indestructible robot. So he’s basing it on a fast, maneuverable, nearly indestructible creature: the cockroach. At his laboratory at UC, Berkeley, Full discovered that roaches can squeeze into spaces less than half their height. And then, amazingly, run in those spaces.

ROBERT FULL (University of California, Berkeley):

They could continue to locomote even though they’re sort of compressed in half, with their legs just splayed out completely to the side; they could continue to run at twenty body lengths a second, so this is a very high speed.


In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, he describes a roach like structure made of rigid segments with elastic connectors. His goal is to make rescue roaches that can navigate through tight spots in rubble after a disaster and locate people trapped inside. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.