S. Korea starts researching insect spy robot cluster control technology


[Courtesy of KRIT]

SEOUL – A consortium led by LIG Nex1, a major defense contractor in South Korea, has launched a five-year research project to develop technology to control micro-sized insect spy robots that operate in groups like ants and bees. The tiny robots can be used in reconnaissance missions by collaborating with manned and unmanned devices such as military drones and patrol robots.

Insect-inspired micro-robots are being researched worldwide, particularly in the military sector, as they are very small and can be disguised as real insects to fool human guards. Insect robots mimic the behavior of a group of insects to form a swarm or perform individual tasks such as reconnaissance and information gathering. The most common form of clustered robotic control is drones flying in formations to create spectacular light patterns in the sky.

The Korea Research Institute for Defense Technology Planning and Advancement (KRIT), a governmental defense technology institute, hosted a kick-off meeting on Marcy 7 to develop cluster robotic technology with military officials, government organizations and developer groups.

The project, which would cost around 28.8 billion won (US$23.5 million), will explore control and management technologies for robots with mechanisms that mimic micro-sized living organisms. KRIT said cluster robotic technology can be applied to civilian industrial sectors.

The project is being carried out by a consortium consisting of LIG Nex 1, Seoul National University and two government-funded institutes – the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology (KAIST). Seoul National University will set up a platform for operating swarm robots.

Technologies to be explored relate to sensor modules, detection, autonomous control technology and operational management. “Our goal is to push the level of technological completion to the limit so that South Korea can become a leader in the global micro-sized insect robot industry and apply cutting-edge technology to the military,” said Cho Kyu-jin, a professor at the SNU of Soft Robotics was cited.

Cho acknowledged that there are still many technical challenges to be solved for the military deployment of micro-sized insect spy robots. A robotics research center at SNU has partnered with LIG Nex1 to develop biomimetic reconnaissance robots.

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