Warfare is scary enough, but now some scientists want to throw some spiders and snakes into the action, but with the intention of making it less scary for soldiers.
BAE Systems is developing electronic spiders, insects, and snakes to help soldiers gather information without exposing them to dangerous situations on the battlefield, according an announcement the defense giant released this week. The effort is being funded by a $38 million agreement with the U.S. Army.
The Micro Autonomous Systems and Technology (MAST) Collaborative Technology Alliance aims to create miniature robots that will act as the eyes and ears of soldiers in dangerous situations, such caves and mountainous areas, potentially saving many lives.
A promotional video released by BEA depicts some of the prospective designs and how soldiers might deploy and process the information the robots gather. The video shows robot spiders scurrying around corners and mechanical dragonflies hovering in windows, with images transmitted to wrist-mounted monitors and command centers, warning them of potential threats.
"Robotic platforms extend the warfighter's senses and reach, providing operational capabilities that would otherwise be costly, impossible, or deadly to achieve," said Joseph Mait, MAST cooperative agreement manager for the Army Research Laboratory.
iRobot, the company that helps clean homes with the Roomba and Scooba, announced a contract last year to supply the Army with PackBots, robots that can lift 30 pounds, climb stairs, roll over rubble, rocks, mud and snow on polymer tracks that use a patented flipper to stay right-side-up.