First Robot to Navigate Without GPS

First Robot to Navigate Without GPS

Robots or other modern devices like phones and tablets rely heavily on GPS in order to navigate outdoors. However, a team of scientists and researchers from CNRS and Aix-Marseille University have developed a robot called AntBot that resembles and navigates like an ant.


The navigational system of the robot used the Cataglyphis desert ant as a basis. A Cataglyphis desert ant relies on two major pieces of information to navigate: one is the heading which is measured by the use of a “celestial compass” that dictates the sky’s polarized light; and the distance measured by counting the steps and using their movement in relation to the sun which is measured optically through their eyes. These two major pieces of information allow the ants to navigate accurately when searching for food.


The AntBot copies the ants’ extraordinary way of navigation with its built-in optical compass. This compass determines the heading by noting its position relative to the patterns of polarized light in the sky. The distance covered is measured by an optical movement sensor directed to the sun. Having these capabilities, the AntBot was able to mimic how the desert ants explore their surroundings.


The robot weighs only 2.3kg and has six feet for increased mobility. The built-in optical compass developed by the team is highly sensitive to the sky’s polarized UV radiation, giving the device’s heading measurement a 0.4° precision. The precision achieved dictates that bio-inspired robots have huge room for innovation as sensors used in the device are minimalist components.


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