Inspired By Fleas

The US Army in Afghanistan is challenged by insurgents using partisan tactics. In many cities, houses may be protected by high walls up to 18 feet high to give the residents privacy and to protect the housing inside from intruders and the elements. The compounds behind the walls can be used as hideouts by insurgents. Soldiers scaling each wall or breaking into each compound is dangerous and impractical. The army does not possess the technology to see through walls and would like to see over them. A new technology is needed and again researchers turn to insects for inspiration.

As reported in The Army Times, the US Army is testing a new microbot that features 4 wheels, a drive motor, a camera and a gas powered “leg” that can make the microbot jump up to 30 feet in the air, high enough to clear most of the walls. The flea-inspired microbot called the “Sand Flea” can be controlled remotely and jump over walls or through windows. The microbot will be tested in winter of 2011-12.

The US Army research is driving many of the advances in robotics. Technology can improve the military position, but technology alone will not solve military problems. Peace is only achieved through political settlement and the hope is that a stronger military position will make a political settlement more likely.

In the future, improvements in robotics for military purposes may find civilian uses such as inspection of unstable buildings (usually from earthquake damage) to locate survivors.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is a retired Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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