Bio-inspired robotics has been all over the place. We've got robots that walk, run, climb, fly, crawl, and swim. We've been kind of missing out on a big domain, though, and that's animals that dig. You know, like moles. Unlike just about any other sort of robot (or animal), you could have a whole family of moles chillin' within just a few feet of you (assuming you're close to the ground, of course) and you'd probably have no idea. And that's appealing for certain robotic applications:
"One use case is for this robot to drive or be air-dropped to a location close to a target, bury itself to be hidden, perform video surveillance, and send that video back to an operator."
Yeah, that's pretty sweet.
Obviously, this is just the very first crack at a self-burying robot, and there's still a lot of experimentation and optimization to be done. The researchers want to make a mathematical model and integrate some sensors and something about feedback control, but here's my advice: scrap all that, and just bolt some bigass motors on there, add some diamond-tipped drill bits, and send this baby straight to the center of the Earth.
"Design Of A Bimodal Self-Burying Robot," by Carl Darukhanavala, Andrew Lycas, Arpit Mittal, and Ashwinram Suresh from Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute,, was presented at ICRA 2013 in Germany last month.
Evan Ackerman is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Since 2007, he has written over 6,000 articles on robotics and technology. He has a degree in Martian geology and is excellent at playing bagpipes.