Volcano Spiders

Spider bots placed inside an active volcano that can self-organize into a mesh network of wireless sensors may be providing a prototype for exploring harsh environments in both space and here on Earth.

‘Spiderbots’ talk amongst themselves inside active volcano – [newscientist.com]

Fifteen spiderbots, so-named because of the three spindly arms protruding from their suitcase-sized steel bodies, were lowered from a helicopter to spots inside the crater and around the rim of Mount St Helens, an active volcano in the US state of Washington, in July.

Each has a seismometer for detecting earthquakes, an infrared sensor to detect heat from volcanic explosions, a sensor to detect ash clouds, and a global positioning system to sense the ground bulging and pinpoint the exact location of seismic activity.

NASA’s Volcanic Robo-Spiders: Sentinels of Future Eruptions – [dailygalaxy.com]

The volcanic crater is a great testing ground for hostile off-world environments and the robo-swarm is an example of a new approach in exploration. Instead of building one great big probe, and losing everything if anything goes wrong, instead you send a horde of simpler robots. They can work wirelessly, co-operating to cover a far larger area than any single probe, and if a few get busted, broken or blown up it really doesn’t matter.

The idea is applicable to other potential disaster sites around the world. Adapted spiderbots, customised to different detection jobs (and that would only mean swapping out one or two of the sensor packages) can keep a permanent watch on major hot spots – and let us react more rapidly than ever before.

NASA Goes Inside a Volcano, Monitors Activity – [physorg.com]

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