AntBot. © Université d’Aix-Marseille/CNRS.
Ants in temperate climates use pheromone trails to navigate. But pheromones don’t last in arid climates, on hot, sandy ground. Desert ants have therefore learned to navigate using the only signpost available to them: the sun. Researchers have tried to mimic this strategy to help robots navigate on other planets, where GPS and satellites are not available. This technique, called optical flow, could also be used on small, earth-based robots to do away with energy-intensive GPS sensors. While early results on the hexapod AntBot are encouraging, there is still progress to be made, since robot navigation skills still don’t equal the humble desert ant’s. Nature is an endless source of inspiration for robotics.
⇨ IEEE Spectrum, “Robot attempts to navigate as well as a tiny desert ant.”