DARPA Wants Your Insect-Scale Robots for a Micro-Olympics

IEEE Spectrum

SHRIMP is a new DARPA program to develop insect-scale robots for disaster recovery and high-risk environments

The DARPA Robotics Challenge was a showcase for how very large, very expensive robots could potentially be useful in disaster recovery and high-risk environments. Humanoids are particularly capable in some very specific situations, but the rest of the time, they’re probably overkill, and using smaller, cheaper, more specialized robots is much more efficient. This is especially true when you’re concerned with data collection as opposed to manipulation—for the “search” part of “search and rescue,” for example, you’re better off with lots of very small robots covering as much ground as possible.

Yesterday, DARPA announced a new program called SHRIMP: SHort-Range Independent Microrobotic Platforms. The goal is “to develop and demonstrate multi-functional micro-to-milli robotic platforms for use in natural and critical disaster scenarios.” To enable robots that are both tiny and useful, SHRIMP will support fundamental research in the component parts that are the most difficult to engineer, including actuators, mobility systems, and power storage.

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