DUBAI

The future of hostage rescue could be this little robot

It’s like Mission Impossible with tiny robots.

The Picobug is a 30-gram robot that can walk, fly and (in the near future) grasp small objects. The adorable little robot was developed by scientists at the University of Pennsylvania’s General Robotics, Automation, Sensing & Perception Laboratory (GRASP). The ability to both walk and fly, known as multi-modal locomotion, means it can save energy when getting from place to place. (Walking requires about six times less energy than flying.) The robot is autonomous, which means that once its programmers have told it where they want it to go, its built-in algorithm will help it find its way there.

Yash Mulgaonkar, a roboticist at GRASP, and one of the Picobug’s inventors, says they are developing a grasping mechanism that will allow the robot to carry or pick up small objects. Right now, the tiny quadcopter can skim into small spaces, perhaps to inspect a clogged pipe. But in the future, it might be able to do things such as assist in a hostage rescue. Like a tiny Tom Cruise robot, it could skitter through a duct over a room where a hostage is being held and lower a tiny camera so rescuers can survey the situation.

home our picks popular latest obsessions search