By Matt Vella
May 27, 2015

Artificial cockroaches have come a long way since Joe’s Apartment.

Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley’s Biomimetic Millisystems Lab have created a tiny, cockroach-like robot that can run around fast enough to launch a second, partner robot into flight.

The lab aims to mimic the ways animals sense the world around them and move about in very small robots, a.k.a. millibots. The so-called VelociRoACH above is strapped to a harness carrying another bot, the H2Bird, which it tosses into the air after a running start. (Another version of the robo-roach, dubbed the X2-VelociRoACH, is the fastest robot relative to size, according to the researches, and can reach running speeds of about 11 miles per hour.)

It’s simply cool to look at. But researchers say the system shows the benefits of getting multiple robots with different capabilities (ground speed in one, flight in another) to work together. This allows both to be more efficient. Or as the lab puts it:

Placing the H2Bird on top of the VelociRoACH decreases the cost of transport of the VelociRoACH by approximately 16 percent. This decrease in the cost of transport would be useful in a situation where the VelociRoACH and the H2Bird had to both reach a point 80 meters away and the H2Bird had to fly 20 meters in the air, where the VelociRoACH cannot reach…In situations such as these, cooperative locomotion would be more efficient than independent locomotion.

The lab’s website says, at the moment, the tiny bots are remote controlled. The next step? Making both autonomous.

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