Feeds

Important breakthrough in mole-cruiser technology

Thick metal tentacle-craft clad in latex sock

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

Good news for mole-cruiser fanciers today, as boffins reveal important new developments in the technology of burrowing subterranean machines.

Poster art for the 70s film of At the Earth's Core by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Traditional mole cruiser in action.

The new underground locomotion tech comes from Professor Daniel Goldman of Georgia Tech and his colleagues, funded in their mechanical mole research by the US Army and National Science Foundation. The prof and his team were inspired by the sandfish lizard of the Sahara desert, which "swims" through the sand seas there.

"We were intrigued by the sandfish lizard’s wedge-shaped head that forms an angle of 140 degrees with the horizontal plane," explains Goldman. "We thought its head might be responsible for or be contributing to the animal’s ability to maneuver in complex environments."

The boffins fashioned a small unmanned demonstrator mole-craft featuring seven articulated segments powered by servo motors. These were apparently "packed in a latex sock and wrapped in a spandex swimsuit". The necessary wedgey "tapered snout" was furnished by attaching a suitable block of wood.

In trials during which it was submerged in a chamber filled with tiny plastic balls, the mole machine's ability to direct its course by changing the angle of its doorstop proboscis was explored.

"The ability to control the vertical position of the robot by modulating its head inclination opens up avenues for further research into developing robots more capable of maneuvering in complex environments, like debris-filled areas produced by an earthquake or landslide," says Goldman.

There are other applications, perhaps more interesting to the prof's military sponsors. We have reported previously on Pentagon plans for the so-called Robotic Underground Munition (RUM), a burrowing mole-missile able to attack such targets as the deeply buried uranium centrifuge bunkers at Natanz in Iran.

It would also, of course, be possible to substitute a crew compartment for the RUM's warhead and add controls for a pilot. Then the long-awaited mole cruiser, navigating beneath the surface of the Earth by means of lightning-plotter 'sferic' beacons, would have become reality at last.

This is important to allow for the real world appearance of such so-far-fictional figures as the Underminer, an excellent supervillain who appears briefly at the end of The Incredibles. Almost his only line is:

"I am beneath you – but NOTHING is beneath me!"

There's more from Georgia Tech here. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
TRIANGULAR orbits will help Rosetta to get up close with Comet 67P
Probe will be just 10km from Space Duck in October
ANU boffins demo 'tractor beam' in water
The current state of the art, apparently
China to test recoverable moon orbiter
I'll have some rocks and a moon cheese pizza please, home delivery
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
Why your mum was WRONG about whiffy tattooed people
They're a future source of RENEWABLE ENERGY
Vulture 2 spaceplane autopilot brain surgery a total success
LOHAN slips into some sexy bespoke mission parameters
Another step forward for diamond-based quantum computers
Square cut or pear-shaped, these qubits don't lose their shape
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.