The Rise of Insect-Sized Robot Spies – Taking Espionage to Another Level

Remember the start of 2010? Only ten years have passed since 2010, but technology continues to evolve at an explosive rate. Back then, Instagram, Uber, and Tinder were yet to exist; Elon Musk’s Tesla was a mere concept; and the jury was still out on Pluto.

Going by recent trends, the next decade is set to take human civilization to the next level. One of these changes is expected to emerge in the form of insect-sized robots. 

What are Insect-Sized Robots and What can They Do?

If the Internet is of any indication, we are getting closer to the insect-sized robot spies, made by none other than the Pentagon. Those who watched Tom Cruise’s Minority Report can get the gist of it. These robots are effectively the advanced form of modern drones.

As you can expect, these will play a pivotal role in surveillance – record sounds, and take photographs discreetly. Many believe that the Israeli military is working on a similar product, which is increasingly raising fears about corporate espionage in the next few years. It remains to be seen how privacy is affected by these “insects”.

Technology Behind Insect-Sized Robots

Insect-sized robots rely on micro solar cells along with the energy scavengers techniques. The latest technological advancements in low-power sensors, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), piezoelectric actuators, and additive manufacturing have led to more R&D on insect-sized robots.

These robots require ultra-low power processors, similar to those that are being used in a wide range of IoT devices. The GAP8 processors are a good example of what is required for insect drones. They rely on a great deal of AI, particularly ML algorithms like convolutional neural networks, allowing them to navigate and distinguish objects and shapes like real insects. Some of the more advanced ones use a combination of neural networks and radar.

RoboFly – A Robot That can Fly without Support

The University of Washington designed RoboFly, one of the most realistic versions of a robotic insect that can fly over both water and land surfaces. A small photoelectric panel is attached to it, which offers all the energy it requires for flying. This drone receives the energy from a laser that is fired from the ground – not from the sun. RoboFly is slightly bigger than a normal fly and weights around 190 mg. At the moment, it is one of the rare insect-sized robots that can fly without a cable.

Final Thoughts

The upcoming decade promises to be an exciting one as more advanced forms of these robots are released. It will be fascinating to observe how these robots can change the espionage industry and influence politics around the world.