DARPA Developing Micro-robotics for High-Risk Environments
Tom Spendlove posted on July 27, 2018 |
Project SHRIMP hopes to move the technology of microrobotics to the next level.

DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) announced a new program this month focused on micro-scale robotics. The SHRIMP Program (Short-Range Independent Microbiotic Platforms) has a goal to ‘develop and demonstrate multi-functional micro-to-milli robotic platforms for use in natural and critical disaster scenarios.’ 

The SHRIMP program will provide research into micro-actuator materials and power systems, and run a series of competitions to test the mobility, maneuverability and dexterity of small robots. The forty four page document that describes the program is available online and Proposer’s Day was July 17. Testing will be done in a center styled after the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s first responder robotics test facility, but on a much smaller scale. The Olympic inspired testing methods are still in the planning phases but currently leaning toward events styled after the high jump, long jump, weightlifting, shot put, and tug of war.

Three different technical areas are detailed in the proposal document. Actuator materials and mechanisms is the first technical area, focused on system control and vision. The second technical area is range extension, with a goal of making high voltage power converters smaller and providing as much energy as possible to micro-actuators. The third technical area looks at mobility, maneuverability and dexterity. The focus here is on untethered platforms and autonomous operation. Technical area 3 also contains the Controlled Unclassified Information clause and requires anyone submitting designs to be able to ‘handle, store, process, and transmit’ sensitive information using their micro-bots. Each technical area has a Metric Table that shows DARPA’s requirements and what is expected of proposals at different phases of the project. The first phase begins in March 2019 and the third phase ends in March 2022.

I’m much more familiar with large scale Boston Dynamic styled robotic testing with DARPA so it was interesting to see this new initiative announced. Watching this project in the coming years will hopefully be a great showcase for innovations made in the realm of nanotechnology and robotics. If you’re feeling highly ambitious and have a micro-scale robotics project, abstracts are due on August 10, 2018.

(Images courtesy of DARPA)

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