bots IN BRIEF
BLACK HORNET GETS
This helicopter is damn tiny. It's only four
inches long (about 10 centimeters) and weighs just
16 grams, but will happily carry a pan-and-tilt
camera that streams video back to a base station.
It's called the Black Hornet, and it's, well, adorable.
In a military with an emphasis on big expensive
robots like predator drones and PackBots, we're
starting to see a different trend towards much
smaller and slightly less expensive (but still
expensive) robots designed for individual soldiers to
use whenever they require them. No need to spend
time calling in some sort of big fancy aerial remote
sensing platform; you can just toss out your own
personal recon bot.
The robot is controlled with a handy little
thumb joystick thingy, while you watch the video
feed it sends back on a tablet. It self-stabilizes to
make the flying easier, and there are autopilot
modes including GPS waypoint navigation, hover and
stare, and pre-programmed search patterns. The
Black Hornet is nearly silent, has a range of 1,000
meters, can fly for 25 minutes, and can go from
pocket to flying in under 60 seconds.
Black Hornet is definitely adding value,
especially considering the lightweight nature of it.
British units in Afghanistan use it to look for
insurgent firing points and check out exposed areas
of the ground before crossing, which is a real asset.
It is very easy to operate and offers amazing
capability to the guys on the ground.
Insect-inspired robots are nothing new, but an insect
driving a robot is. Graduate student Garnet Hertz managed
to get a cockroach to control a mobile robot back in 2006,
but scientists over at the University of Tokyo have changed
it up a bit by having a silk moth drive a small two-wheeled
bot in pursuit of a female sex pheromone. As with the
cockroach, the male moth steered the bot by walking
around on a rotating ball — no training required. This isn't
just for fun and games of course. The eventual goal of the
study is to apply the moth's tracking behavior to
autonomous robots so they can be utilized in situations like
hunting down environmental spills and leaks.
20 SERVO 04.2013