Life-Like Animal Robots Take on Important Jobs

An article I wrote for Electronic Products.

A look at some of the most fascinating robots inspired by nature

Surveillance camera hummingbirds, huge robo-mules marching off to war, life-saving cyborg cockroaches. It’s not science fiction; it’s the beginning of what seems to be a whole new world. Take a look at some of the most amazing animal influenced robots that are set to take on the land, oceans, and skies for some very important reasons.

Plant-pollinating RoboBee

It’s summertime again, meaning all of those pesky insects are back in action. But this year brings a new breed of bug flying through the skies: robotic bees. As the bee population has been drastically declining, a team at Harvard University’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences began looking for an artificial alternative to pollinate plants. Their solution was RoboBee, a robotic buzzing bumble with the ability to travel in large swarms, assisting humans in agricultural production and exploring hazardous environments. The team has been working on sensors that can inform the robot similar to the way a bee’s antennae and eyes do.


Swarms of RoboBees may someday be used to pollinate plants. Image via

Pollution sensing robotic fish 

Swimming swiftly through the ocean just like an actual fish, this self-guided robot may be the best weapon in the fight against pollution. Created by computer scientists at the University of Essex in England, it uses built-in sensors and artificial intelligence to make its way around underwater obstacles and respond to environmental changes. The fish can detect leaks in oil pipelines and explore the sea floor, feeding the information back to shore. Its micro-electrode arrays can detect lead, copper, and other pollutants, as well as water salinity and oxygen levels. It’s able to glide through the water for up to eight hours on a single charge before being recovered by boat.

Pollution Sensing Fish

The pollution-sensing robotic fish looks and swims just like an actual fish. Image via

Robot hummingbird spy

Fluttering and hovering about, this tiny mechanical bird looks innocent, and real — you wouldn’t think it’s fake unless it stops moving — but it’s got an important job to do. DARPA’s little birdie can tell them all about you, as it relays real-time video from a small on-board camera directly to its operator. The military plans to use this ‘bot to get views of threats inside or outside of a building from a safe distance.

DARPA Hummingbird

DARPA’s innocent-looking hummingbird spy. Image via

Cargo-carrying robotic military mule 

DARPA Military Mule

DARPA’s robotic military mule can haul up to 400 pounds and charge electronics. Image via

Soldiers often have to carry up to 100 pounds of gear, but that’s without DARPA’s cargo-carrying military mule. Built to haul 400 pounds of cargo and navigate tricky terrain, this robotic mule can cross streams and climb slopes without a problem. It’s programmed to respond to voice commands, so this loyal beast willingly follows its human guide. It can also charge multiple electronic gadgets such as phones and lights.

Life-saving cyborg cockroach 

Cockroaches are gross, but would you allow one near you if it meant saving your life? After all, they’re pros at surviving all sorts of conditions, and when they’re programmed into remote-controlled robots, they could help emergency responders locate survivors after a disaster. Scientists have anesthetized some of these crawly critters and inserted electrodes near their antennae. Medical-grade epoxy secured tiny magnets to their backs so a ‘backpack’ with a wireless control system could be mounted on top, containing a locater beacon and a microphone to pick up calls for help.

Cyborg Cockroach

This creepy-looking cyborg cockroach can save lives. Image via

What are your thoughts on these futuristic clashes of science and nature? Let us know — leave a comment in the comments section below!

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