No, this is not another one of those zombie-related blogs we've been chuckling over for the past year. It's actually about something that could help save lives in a structural collapse.
Those of you who have been involved in urban search and rescue know that the likelihood of someone surviving in a collapsed structure significantly decreases after 72 hours. Locating the victim quickly is absolutely critical to their survival. We've got a lot of tools to help, such as camera probes, sensitive listening devices, and trained dogs, but it's still a slow and painstaking process.
Imagine if you could just upend a bucket of tiny electronic cockroaches that scramble through the debris and precisely locate a victim by detecting the carbon dioxide in their breath. And imagine that these tiny helpers were cheap enough to be considered disposable.
Sound far fetched? Not to the researchers at UC Berkeley's Biomimetic Millisystems Lab. They've got a working prototype called DASH (dynamic autonomous sprawled hexpod) that mimics the movement of cockroaches, allowing it to crawl over objects twice its height and survive a four story drop. The unit is cheap (less than $50 in parts) and easy to reproduce. Researchers are hoping to have a unit that is smaller and able to scale walls in production within the next three to five years.