Meet the robot insects that fly, work together and catch objects like chameleons

30 Mar 20156 Shares

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Automation expert Festo has created three robots inspired by butterflies, ants and a chameleon. They can fly in packs, self charge, work in groups and pick up pretty much anything.

The pick of the bunch is the FlexShapeGripper, a grabbing tool that’s modelled on the incredible tongue of a chameleon. To catch prey, chameleons’ tongues act like suction devices, grabbing flies in an adhesive, form-fitting, interlocking hold.

To replicate this, Festo’s gripper is made from an elastic, silicone cap that adapts to the object it is targeting. It can pick up multiple things, holding many at a time, and reacts to pretty much any shape.

This could be incredibly useful for a range of industries, from automated picking businesses to user aids for those with physical difficulties.

For example Robbie the Robot is a prototype machine made to assist Joanne O’Riordan, a Cork teenager born without arms or legs. Trinity College researchers developed ‘hands’ by filling a balloon with coffee granules.

Inflating it with air meant it could conform with any shape, sucking the air out would then trap, or grab, it – the FlexShapeGripper is better still. It could, basically, be revolutionary to the robotics industry.

Taking flight

Another creation from Festo is its eMotionButterfly. Incredibly light, flying in packs, GPS and infrared cameras coordinate the devices.

“The eMotionButterflies impress with an intelligently employed mechanical system and the smallest possible power units in the tightest space,” says the company. “The reduced use of materials enables the true-to-nature flying behaviour.”

It's pretty exceptional that these devices are small and light enough to ensure flight through the wafting of wings.

Robot butterflies

Festo's eMotionButterflies mimic the flying capabilities of natural butterflies

Colonise us all

Lastly are the BionicANTs, which are as terrifying looking as they are clever. Again, these tiny robots mimic the behaviour of ants working together to move an object.

They communicate with each other to ensure they never crash together, autonomously deciding where best to position themselves to get the task done.

They also stroll over to the perimeter of their working fired to avail of the self charge points, pressing their antennae against the wall. There’s pretty much no stopping them.

Robot ants

Festo's BionicANTS work together as a team to get a job done

Gordon Hunt is a journalist at Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com