US: US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) scientists are developing a new sensing and processing system, in an effort to enhance soldiers' situational awareness capabilities during combat operations. Called microquadrotor, the device is a size-constrained robotic system and can fly using a manual pilot control or in a test environment that uses an external-visual tracking system, such as a Vicon system. Current methods for control, navigation and obstacle avoidance, such as laser-range finders, are heavy and expensive, according to Dr Joseph Conroy, US Army Sensors and Electron Devices Directorate research engineer. "We wish to use methods inspired by the neurophysiology of the insect-visual system to provide these capabilities within the necessary payload," said Conroy.
US soldiers require general purpose, squad-level intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities with minimal weight and operational training. Realising that the desired ISR capabilities can be provided by flying robotic vehicles, the scientists are developing and evaluating millimetre-scale robotic leg structures comprising piezoelectric thin-film actuator segments and thin-film copper sections, which are designed to mimic leg kinetics and can move, lift and resist impact. “The millimetre-scale robotic platforms are expected to provide a unique set of advantages and capabilities. Their inherent size makes them useful to access difficult to reach areas such as in rubble for search and rescue, and behind closed doors for reconnaissance," said Dr Ronald Polcawich, ARL Piezoelectric-Micro Electro-Mechanical Systems Technology.
Source: Army technology