South Korea is developing nature-inspired military surveillance robots – Science Story


South Korea is developing military surveillance robots that mimic wildlife that are adapted for all environments on Earth.

The nature inspired technology, known as biomimetics, will form part of the country’s future weapons systems and help its soldiers in battle.  

Designs that work like birds, snakes and marine species aim to cover both surveillance and combat via sea, land and air.  

Neighbouring countries such as China and Russia have already made huge advances in the application of the technology, said a defence agency spokesman. 

In a document that described the country’s key defence technologies, South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) says it would actively apply the biomimetics to the military’s future weapons systems.

The plan is to develop several kinds of biobots which replicate humans and wildlife, mimicking birds, snakes, marine species and even insects for the hardest to reach areas. 

DAPA agency spokesman Park Jeong-eun said: ‘Biometric robots will be a game changer in future warfare, and related technologies are expected to bring about great ripple effects throughout the defense industry.’ 

He added that their roles will range from search and rescue operations to reconnaissance and are expected to be deployed for military use as early as 2024.  

Noting that South Korea lags years behind major advanced countries such as the United States, Japan, Russia and China in the military application of biomimetics, the agency also vowed close cooperation with the private sector to bring state-of-the-art technologies to its weapons systems.

Biomemetics looks to nature to solve problems, by ‘mimicking’ its adaptations that have evolved over millions of years. 

This is particularly useful for attempts to penetrate natural environments that are challenging for humans. 

This includes countries which are deploying military systems in a variety of settings, landscapes and terrains. 

But it can also be used to monitor and solve modern-day problems faced by the natural world. 

Last year, scientists at the Florida Atlantic University built robot jellyfish that could be swim through openings narrower than their bodies and are powered by hydraulic silicon tentacles.

Several of the bots have already been tested squeezing through holes cut into a plexiglass plate.

In future, these so-called ‘jellybots’ could be sent into delicate environments, such as coral reefs, without risking collision and damage, say scientists.

Similarly, MIT has developed a robot the size of a small dog can perform back-flips with the agility of a champion gymnast.

The four-legged automaton, dubbed the ‘mini cheetah’, is virtually indestructible, according to its creators.

The robot walks at double the speed of an average person and can easily run over bumpy, uneven terrain.

It has flexible metal limbs that provide stability and the robot can quickly pull itself up with a swing of its ‘elbows’ if it ever falls over.


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