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Ant Locomotion Studies Could Improve Underground Search and Rescue Robots
By studying fire ants in the lab using video tracking equipment and X-ray computed tomography, Georgia Tech researchers have discovered basic principles of locomotion that robot teams could use to travel more efficiently through underground tunnels. "The problems that the ants face are the same kinds of problems that a digging robot working in a confined space would potentially face ? the need for rapid movement, stability, and safety ? all with limited sensing and brain power," said biology professor Michael Goodisman. Among the newly uncovered principles is building tunnel environments that assist in moving around by limiting slips and falls, and by reducing the need for complex neural processing. In the researchers' studies, groups of ants were placed into tubes of soil and allowed to dig tunnels for 20 hours. Regardless of the variations in particle size and moisture content, the diameters of the ants' tunnels remained constant.
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