There are many robots being developed for helping out with duties in homes, restaurants and hotels. NASA has also created a robot that may be able to assist in the exploration of planets. The self-driving “swarmies” robots look like remote-controlled toy trucks and are much smaller than other NASA robots such as the Mars rover Curiosity. The autonomous robots come equipped with technologies such as a webcam, Wi-Fi antenna, and GPS system for navigation.
Engineers from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida developed a software for the swarmies that allows the researchers to direct the robots to fan out in different directions and search for a specific, predetermined material. If one of the robots are able to come across the specific material, it will use radio communication to contact the other swarmies to help in gathering samples, similar to the way an ant colony would gather around a food source to help in collecting the food to take it back to the nest.
“For a while people were interested in putting as much smarts and capability as they could on their robot,” Kurt Leucht, an engineer working on the project said in a statement. “Now people are realizing you can have much smaller, much simpler robots that can work together and achieve a task. One of them can roll over and die and it’s not the end of the mission because the others can still accomplish the task.”
Currently, the swarmies are in its preliminary stages of being developed and its testing is being limited to the parking lots around Kennedy’s Launch Control Center as they are programmed to hunt for barcoded slips of paper. If testing is successful, the team will then include the ‘RASSOR’ design which is an experimental mining robot designed to dig into alien surfaces to search for valuable materials.
Assuming that the testing of the robot goes well, the swarmies will also assist in search and rescue tasks such as looking through wreckage caused by a natural disaster or crash.