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Navy Robots with a Sense of Smell

Chances are if you see one ant in the house, more will soon be on the way. The rest of the colony follows a pheromone trail that leads them to places with yummy crumbs to take back home. My suggestion is that if you see an ant, squash it mercilessly before its buddies get any ideas.

So, robots. I did have a point with the ants. The U.S. Navy is investigating using pheromone trails on Navy ships to assist aviation ordnance crews transporting munitions that can weigh 1,000 lbs. The basic idea is the same with a colony of ants. A leader robot and a group of helper bots follow the pheromone trail back-and-forth from where ordnance is stored to where it is loaded on planes, doing the necessary heavy lifting.

USS John C. Stennis

Naval aviation ordnance crews may eventually get a helping hand from robots with ant-like behavior. Courtesy US Navy.

This plan would eliminate the need for complex visual systems that would allow robots to perform the same function by following signs placed on the ships. The idea is still in the most basic of stages, with scientists still needing to figure out how to program the instructions to go along with the pheromones. It should go without saying that the scent trail must also be non-harmful to humans.

The process would still involve actual people, following the Navy’s rule that robots must have human oversight. I’d guess that some safeguards will need to be designed so that the scent trail can be temporarily interrupted by someone walking through an area, so other Naval personnel don’t get run down by drones carrying heavy bombs.

Below you’ll find a video demonstration of the agility possessed by modern robots.

Source: Wired

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