WASHINGTON — French researchers got inspiration from desert ants and developed a first-of-its-kind walking robot that can move without GPS.
The study published on Wednesday in the journal Science Robotics reported the brand-new robot design with the desert ants’ exceptional navigation capabilities.
Scientists from the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and Aix-Marseille University created a robot called AntBot, equipped with an optical compass that is sensitive to polarized ultraviolet light and an optical movement sensor to measure the distance covered.
AntBot has six feet, allowing it to move with agility in complex environments where wheeled robots and drones cannot be deployed, according to the study.
AntBot achieved 0.4 degree precision in its heading in either clear or cloudy weather.
Also, the 2.3-kilogram robot turned out to be able to explore an unfamiliar environment like the desert ants with precision of up to one centimeter after walking 14 meters.
Cataglyphis desert ants can walk several hundreds of meters in direct sunlight then return in a straight line to the nest, according to the study.
They use the sky’s polarized light to measure the heading and counted steps to cover distance. Combining the two piece of information, those ants manage to come back home without getting lost.