The first walking robot that moves without GPS

The first walking robot that moves without GPS
Antbot, the first walking robot that moves without GPS. Credit: Julien Dupeyroux, ISM (CNRS/AMU)

Desert ants are extraordinary solitary navigators. Researchers at CNRS and Aix-Marseille University, in the Institut des Sciences du Mouvement—Étienne Jules Marey (ISM), were inspired by ants as they designed AntBot, the first walking robot that can explore its environment randomly and navigate home automatically without GPS or mapping. This work, published in Science Robotics, opens up new strategies for navigation in autonomous vehicles and robotics.

Human eyes are insensitive to polarized light and ultraviolet radiation, but that is not the case for ants, who use it to locate themselves in space. Cataglyphis desert ants in particular can cover several hundreds of meters in in the desert to find food, then return in a straight line to the nest without getting lost. And they are most active during times of day when heat would make pheromone trails evaporate. Their extraordinary talent relies on orienting themselves using the sky's polarized light, and measuring the covered by counting steps and incorporating the rate of movement relative to the sun measured optically by their eyes. Distance and heading are the two combined pieces of information that allow them to return directly to the nest.

AntBot, the new robot designed by CNRS and Aix-Marseille University (AMU) researchers at ISM, copies the ' exceptional navigation capacities. It is equipped with an optical compass to determine its heading by means of polarized light, and an optical movement sensor directed to the sun to measure the distance covered. Armed with this information, AntBot can explore its environment and to return on its own to its base with precision of up to one centimeter after having covered a total distance of 14 meters. Weighing only 2.3 kg, this robot has six feet for increased mobility, allowing it to move in complex environments where deploying wheeled robots and drones can be complicated, including disaster areas and rugged terrain.

The optical compass developed by the scientists is sensitive to the sky's polarized . Using this "celestial compass," AntBot measures its heading with 0.4 degrees of precision in clear or cloudy weather. The navigation precision achieved with these minimal sensors proves that bio-inspired robotics has immense capacity for innovation.

Explore further

Desert ants found to have dual navigation systems

More information: J. Dupeyroux el al., "AntBot: A six-legged walking robot able to home like desert ants in outdoor environments," Science Robotics (2019). … /scirobotics.aau0307
Journal information: Science Robotics

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Citation: The first walking robot that moves without GPS (2019, February 13) retrieved 18 September 2019 from
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Feb 13, 2019
Isn't their a cumulative error in this kind of process that would limit navigation to limited distances?

Feb 13, 2019
I sure wouldn't trust my. innate, pre-programed instincts for long-distance navigation.

& damn it all to hell! You can't even trust a magnetic compass to be accurate!

Weak-ass EM forces, bah!

At least Gravity is always the same reliable direction...

Feb 14, 2019
Isn't their a cumulative error in this kind of process that would limit navigation to limited distances?

The number of steps you count has a drift, while the polarization angle changes according to the time of day. If you know the time, or you can see the sun, you can compensate for the latter. The step distance is a bit more difficult to correct unless you have another reference point that is always visible.

The ants may be able to see the general shape of the skyline to have a rough idea of where they are regardless of slip in their steps, because they can compare the angle of the sun to a fixed background object.

Feb 14, 2019
& the ants accomplish that simultaneously while running an economically efficient "Drunkard's Walk" search pattern.

Lousy showoffs!

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