The achievements in Science and technology have come a long way. However, if we compare our technology with that of nature, we still need to reach very far. We hardly knew how to fly airplanes a century back, but there are so many species of birds and insects that have mastered this skill million of years back. Billions of years of evolution have also solved an immeasurable number of problems and weaknesses in almost every species of nature. This process of adaptation from nature has thus made it so advanced. Hence, if the work we do already have a better version of it, why try doing it on our own all of it over again?
As a result, engineers and scientists have found nature as a promising inspiration for the design, innovation, and perfection. They have analyzed and studied the animal kingdom to figure out how their body, skeletal, and muscle mechanism works to create higher efficient robots and machines. This process of being inspired by nature to design and solving problems is called ‘Biomimicry’. Here is,
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The List of Top Biomimicry Robots
Birds are beautiful creatures. They are pretty nice enough unless you work at places like aviation-flight control, waste management/landfills, and agriculture/farms, in which case they’re the sworn enemy. In such areas, birds can be a very tough problem to deal with. At airports, birds can endanger passenger safety by damaging an aircraft, spread disease, or covering the vision. Being a terrifying ordeal, so you’d be unsurprised to hear airports are ready to pay huge to keep the areas clear of birds. Thus, the Dutch company Clear Flight Solutions responds to these problems and limits bird nuisance with high-tech ‘Robirds’.
Clear Flight Solutions’ Robird is a drone that flaps its wings and scares the bejesus out of other birds to keep aviation safe. The Robirds are designed to look as close to real birds as possible. “The Robirds are robotic birds of prey that fly just like a real bird, through flapping wing motion,” Wessel Straatman, an R&D engineer at Clear Flight Solutions, told Digital Trends. “By mimicking their natural counterparts through silhouette and behavior, they are indistinguishable from real-life birds of prey to other birds, and circling airports will be enough to stop real birds from straying into airplane flight paths. These remote-controlled robotic birds, with the realistic appearance and weight of their living counterparts, serve as modern-day scarecrows.
Snakes are one of the unique creatures as they are quick, smart, and highly efficient at what they do. Moreover, what sets them apart is their body that is unlike any other creature. Lacking a rigid skeleton can make their bodies twist, turn and bend in many ways, making them enter smallest holes, swim underwater, get wrapped around trees, and crawl over surfaces where most other beings couldn’t. Having such advance qualities attracts inspiration even for NASA. Engineers at NASA’s Ames Research Center, have developed a new type of robotic and interplanetary probe that is inspired by snakes called a Snakebot.
Although NASA has sent ten robotic explorers to fly by, orbit, or rove around Mars, Snakebots will give the scientists a completely different look over and under the Martian landscape. The lead Snakebot engineer Gary Haith says, “A Snakebot could navigate over rough, steep terrain where a wheeled robotic rover would likely get stuck or topple”. They will be able to slither into the cracks of the planet’s surface, dig into the loose soil of Mars and burrow down to depths that other robotic probes can’t get to. Having an unlimited possibility of the application gives it multiple purposes. Thus, Snakebots are also being further researched to be used for industrial, medical, and mechanical tasks.
3. Bipedal Ostrich Bots
Scientists believe running robots in the future are likely to resemble ostriches or dinosaurs. Research suggests that the efficient way flightless birds – and their dinosaur ancestors – get around on two legs could usefully be employed in robot design. A study has demonstrated how an ostrich’s speed, energy conservation, and ability to stay upright is unmatched in other animals, including humans. Dr. Jonathan Hurst, a US lead researcher from Oregon State University, says, ‘Birds appear to be the best of bipedal terrestrial runners, with a speed and agility that may trace back 230 million years to their dinosaur ancestors’. Dr. Hurst pointed out that Running birds such as ostriches and emus are not necessarily the most graceful movers, but they save energy and avoid falling.
Ensuing, a bizarre robot that runs on two legs like an ostrich has been unveiled by scientists. While most bipedal bots rely on software and sensors to stay upright, the new robot can balance itself thanks to its elegant mechanical design. The bizarre-looking bipedal robots that move like an Ostrich can reach a top speed of 27.8mph (44.7m/h), balance on itself, and runs faster than any human.
4. Bat Bot
Bats have wings that can change shape during flight, with shoulders, legs, elbows, and wrists all moving at once. Thus, having the most complex flying mechanisms in animals, they have long captured the imaginations of scientists and engineers with their unrivaled agility. Their complex wing motions pose significant technological challenges for those seeking to recreate their flight in a robot. Thus, translating such a complicated flight into a mechanical form was no easy task for a group of researchers at Caltech, but the payoff was worth it.
Bat Bot — a self-contained robotic bat with soft, articulated wings, developed by researchers at Caltech and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). This robot design will help build safer and more efficient flying robots, and also give more insight into the way bats fly. The drone weighing 93 grams and offers more battery efficiency than any other drone of its size. The movement of the flying amplifies the energy of the actuators, requiring them to put in less effort in the first place. One of the tricks that the bats have up their sleeves is the elastic membrane of their wings. Conventional materials, such as nylon or mylar, were just not flexible enough for the wings. The team had to develop a custom silicon membrane for this purpose. Apart from energy efficiency, the Bat-Bots have another advantage. Because of the soft silicone used in their construction, they can be used in environments where there are objects or people that can be damaged or hurt if a quadcopter collides into them.
5. Water Striders
Walking on water sounds impossible, but here are Water striders, little insects that spend their existence skating around on the surface of lakes, ponds, and streams, relying on surface tension to keep them dry. Interestingly, water striders are able to jump just as high on the water as they are on land, suggesting that the technique that they use is unique to their environment since most other insects that can jump on the water are way more efficient jumping on land. The movement of water striders is all based on using surface tension to keep themselves on top of the water’s surface, and their jumping behavior is no different.
Thus the insect has attracted the attention of many researchers due to their power-efficient and agile water surface locomotion. Water striders have thus inspired many Robots such as STRIDE II. This particular robot uses new circular footpads for high lift, stability and payload capability, and a new elliptical leg rotation mechanism for more efficient water surface propulsion. Using the advantage of scaling effects on surface tension versus buoyancy, similar to water strider insects, this robot uses the repulsive surface tension force on its footpads as the dominant lift principle instead of creating buoyancy by using very skinny (1 mm diameter) circular footpads coated with a superhydrophobic material. The robot and the insect propel quickly and power efficiently on the water surface by the sculling motion of their two side-legs, which never break the water surface completely. These water strider robots could be used in water surface monitoring, cleaning, and analysis in lakes, dams, rivers, and the sea.
Ants are one of the most intelligent creatures on our planet. They build colonies that have societies with the division of labor, communication between individuals, and the ability to solve complex obstacles. These parallels with human societies have long been an inspiration and subject of study. BionicANTs are small robot ants inspired by real ants.
The cooperative behavior of the ants is also transferred to the world of technology using complex control algorithms. Like their natural role models, the BionicANTs work together under clear rules. They communicate with each other and coordinate their actions and movements among each other. The artificial ants thus demonstrate how autonomous individual components can solve a complex task together, working as an overall networked system. In an abstract manner, this cooperative behavior provides interesting approaches for the factory of tomorrow. Future production systems will be founded on intelligent components, which adjust themselves flexibly to different production scenarios and thus take on tasks from a higher control level.
Bees are one of the most important insects in nature. Thus, the researchers at Harvard SEAS had been trying to develop RoboBees for over 10 years, finally achieving first flight in 2013. It is because of the complexities of powering up such tiny robots, with no room for a battery or a computer on such tiny structures. But, with an added ability to swim, now, these might be the first dual-species robots of note.
However, since 2013, the bees have become increasingly advanced and now have gone much beyond the capabilities of their biological cousins. The RoboBees can dive from the air, into the water, and continue to swim underwater, using the same wings that they use to fly in the air. Each bee is about half the size of a paperclip and weighs less than one-tenth of a gram. They can be used for a number of purposes other than pollinating flowers. RoboBees can be used for environmental monitoring, biological studies, and search and rescue operations.
Inspired by Octopus and made from silicone gels of varying stiffness, the ‘Octobot’ is powered by a chemical reaction that pushes gas through chambers in its rubbery legs. Because of this design, the robot does not need batteries or wires – and contains no rigid components at all. Instead, a sequence of limb movements is pre-programmed into a sort of circuit board built from tiny pipes. At its heart is a “fluidic logic circuit” where valves act as logic gates, allowing gas to flow and inflate compartments inside the eight separate limbs. The gas is pumped into that circuit by a little fuel cell filled with hydrogen peroxide, which reacts with particles of platinum left in the system by the printing process.
These movements aren’t good enough, yet, to send the Octobot out for a stroll; instead, it sits in one place and pumps alternating legs up and down in a very slow, eight-legged can-can. But because that dance is powered purely by the robot’s internal pneumatic system, the Harvard researchers – writing in the journal Nature – say their system marks a key step forward for soft robotics. “Many of the previous embodiments required tethers to external controllers or power sources. What we’ve tried to do is actually to replace these hardware components entirely and have a completely soft robotic system.” Says Ph.D. student Ryan Truby from Harvard University.
The hope is that one day, soft robots will wiggle their way into awkward surgical locations or squeeze under obstacles on search-and-rescue missions, the possibilities are endless.
9. Gecko-Inspired Robots
While many robots look quite like its natural inspiration, still, many other bears no resemblance to the real creature. Biomimicry does not have to mean building a robot that looks exactly like its inspiration. Here is a similar case with a creature called Gecko and the robot inspired by it. Geckos are brilliant when it comes to sticking to surfaces by using tiny hairs on their feet. Most interestingly, the material used to stick to a surface isn’t sticky, but will strongly adhere to a surface when force is applied. Thus, this feature has inspired researchers at Stanford University and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to design a space cleanup tool that’s modeled on the gecko — or one part of the gecko, at least.
As it turns out, space’s inconvenient lack of atmosphere means that regular suction cups won’t work. Around 500,000 pieces of manmade space junk orbits Earth at frankly terrifying speeds, the aim of this cleanup gripper is to able to grasp large objects, weighing as much as 370kg, and remove them. The idea of applying Gecko’s features to space-age trash pickup is unique — and owes its existence to everyone’s favorite eyeball-licking lizard.
Stickybot III – The Stickybot developed by Stanford engineers, is a robotics platform inspired by Gecko and is in its third generation now. The Stickybot platform was developed to create a wall-climbing robot, one that could attach itself to any kind of surface, from wood to metal, to a glass.
10. Manta Ray Robot – MantaDroid
Researchers from the National University of Singapore have created an underwater robot designed to move and look like a manta ray, better disguising the machine among its aquatic surroundings. The MantaDroid is designed to be used for underwater surveillance and marine biodiversity studies. It proposes an inconspicuous alternative to conventional underwater vehicles currently used. Measuring 35cm in length, 63cm in width, and weighing only 0.7 kilograms, the aquatic robot is able to swim at a speed of 0.7mps for up to 10 hours.
Manta rays are considered one of nature’s most graceful and efficient swimmers. Unlike most underwater species, manta rays possess a unique propulsion mechanism that enables them to cruise through turbulent seas by flapping their pectoral fins effortlessly. These distinctive features sparked great interest in understanding the science behind the mechanism, and how to incorporate similar mechanisms into autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). The MantaDroid is driven by its flexible pectoral fins, made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) sheets. These are used instead of the propeller-based thrusters found in ordinary AUVs and have the potential to operate for a longer range.