Having proven itself with over 30,000 combat hours performing
surveillance, Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk UAV is heading to Europe
as part of a joint venture with EADS (the European Aeronautic Defence and
Space Company). Renamed the Euro Hawk, the UAV is getting a brand new
surveillance system to accompany its already impressive airframe capabilities
which include a 15,000
mile range and 36
hours of endurance at
over 60,000 feet.
EADS is also working on a number of other UAV and UCAV projects,
although budgetary concerns have put a bit of a damper on things.
IT WAS AN ITSY, BITSY, TEENIE, WEENIE ...
This microbot — born out of a collaboration between the University of Washington and Stanford — weighs half a gram, is
about the size of a dime, and is thinner than your fingernail. This robot actually started out as a prototype part for a paper-thin
scanner or printer back in the ‘90s. Then, the same hardware was used to design a docking system for picosatellites. It was only
recently that researchers flipped the thing over on its back and discovered that it could not only walk, but carry up to seven
times its own weight while moving in any direction at a blistering three feet per
The microbot has 512 teeny tiny individual legs, grouped into 128 clusters of
four, positioned orthogonally to one another to allow for movement in any
direction. The legs consist of an electrical wire sandwiched between two different
thermally reactive materials. When electricity runs through the wire, the
materials heat and the outside one expands, forcing the foot to curl. When the
current is turned off, the foot cools, returning to its original position. At such
small scales, this process can happen very rapidly, and the feet are able to
complete a movement cycle between 20 and 30 times every second.
Since the microbot didn’t start off life as a robot, it’s not exactly optimized.
For example, minor modifications could likely reduce its weight by about 90%
which would boost its power-to-weight ratio (and potential payload) even higher.
This means it should be
relatively straightforward to
equip the robot with a
battery, circuit board, and
sensors, making it entirely autonomous.
Graduate students added paper clips to the
microrobot's back to test how much weight it
could carry. The robot could carry seven times
its own weight.
Tiny, four-sided cilia — pulsating structures that mimic
the hairs that line the human windpipe — are arranged
in rows along the underside of the robot.
The microrobot is about the width of a fingernail,
significantly slimmer than a dime. Wires to the
center transmit power and directions. At the front
and back is an 8x8 grid of tiny shuffling legs.
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