Wonderful Engineering

Tiny Robots Will Now Compete In Olympics Hosted By DARPA

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is looking for submissions of designs for bug-sized robots which can help in search-and-rescue after disasters. These tiny robots will go through a series of tests to check their strength, speed, and agility. The program is called Short-Range  Independent Microrobotic Platforms (SHRIMP). It will test the robots in locations where it is harder for humans or bigger robots to navigate.

Ronald Polcawich, DARPA program manager in Microsystems Technology Office, said, “The DoD (Department of Defense) has interests in robotics of all scales. The development of small-scale robots requires addressing several unique challenges, especially in the area of extreme size and weight constraints that can be less of a priority for robots of other scales.” SHRIMP researchers will be designing and testing the new ways to power the small robots. They will also try new materials which can improve the performance of the robots without compromising on the weight and size. Competitions which test the robot’s untethered actuator-power systems will also check how high and far a robot can jump, how far it can throw the objects, how much weight it can lift and how it manages to fight in a tug-of-war.

Another contest will be evaluating the complete robot design to check their rock piling, climbing, navigation skills or put them through biathlon. Polcawich said, “The tiny robots “provide a unique opportunity to push the development of highly efficient, versatile microelectronics. We anticipate that discoveries made through our actuator and power storage research could prove beneficial to a number of fields currently constrained by these technical challenges–from prosthetics to optical steering.”