termite dronesTermites are something that we could do without as business and homeowners (well, they are somewhat important to our business). However, to scientists termites are fascinating creatures for study in how they operate as colonies and build some of their super structures.

Classified in the You won’t believe This Category

Scientist and robotics engineers from Harvard are developing termite inspired drone robots to do some of the work of human engineering.

Termite mounds are impressive structures. Not only can they climb many feet above the ground, but they have built-in temperature control and are beneficial to other creatures in their habitats. Perhaps most impressively, termites build without blueprints or a centralized plan.

This fact inspired Justin Werfel, a researcher at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, to look at how termites create structures. These insects became the model for a new approach to building with swarms of robots. “We learned about these colonies of huge numbers of tiny insects that together build these very large-scale, complicated structures,” Werfel told TreeHugger. “Now, how could we build and program a swarm of robots so that they build things for us?”

Instead of programming the robots with a sophisticated set of coordinated step-by-step instructions, Werfel’s team gave the robots a simple set of rules to follow. In other words, they didn’t give the bots blueprints.

The robots are equipped with sensors, so they can tell where to stop, turn around and how to place a brick. They build along a grid without communicating with each other, instead knowing to place their blocks in an open spot or move along if a spot is filled. The bots also follow traffic rules, that tell them where other bots are and to not bump into each other.

The key to this approach is that the low-level rules are defined by the user’s end result.

Still not convince. Check them out in action

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