Swarming Mini Tankbot sniffs out contraband, sneaks around in swarms

Not all swarming robot vehicles fly through the air like maple tree seeds—some of them creep along the ground on tiny tank tracks, and are so small they're hardly even the size of your high school class ring. This mini robot created by Sandia National Labs weighs less than an ounce, and is so puny that its largest components are the three watch batteries that power it.

The robot tank's creators are working on further miniaturization so it can carry a variety of electronic paraphernalia, including a camera, microphone, chemical sensors and communications gear. Then it will sync up with dozens of its fellow swarm members, sneaking around tight spaces, looking for bad guys, or sniffing the air for poisonous gases, bio weapons or explosives. Take a look at the next page for a video of one of the tiny tanks in action, climbing over a group of nickels and dimes.

If its inventors ever want this mini-bot to accomplish much, they're going to need to speed it up significantly—now it can only creep along at a turtle-slow 20 inches per minute.

Sandia National Laboratories, via Bot Junkie