Scientists at the North Carolina State University have invented a blend of software and hardware. This will allow them to use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and biobots to map wide unfamiliar places.
"The idea would be to release a swarm of sensor-equipped biobots -- such as remotely controlled cockroaches -- into a collapsed building or other dangerous, unmapped area," says Edgar Lobaton, a co-author.
These biobots will be made to freely move around within a defined area. They will send signals via radio waves to the researchers whenever they get close to each other. Custom software will translate these biobot sensor data using an algorithm into an imprecise map of the strange environment.
Upon receiving sufficient data to map that particular area, the UAV will move forward to explore an adjacent unstudied section. The biobots will move along with it and repeat the mapping. The software will then stitch together the maps from the entire area.
This has a utility in area where GPS cannot be used, but strong radio signals from an UAV can be. The current research has been done using an inch-and-a-half-long robot. The team is excitedly looking forward to use biobots.