stanford university researchers have developed a snake-like robot that grows like a vine by squeezing through hard to reach places. the sole aim of the prototype is to act as a search and rescue device, moving through rubble and small openings in order to reach trapped survivors by delivering them water. the snake starts as a rolled up inside out tube with a pump on one end and a camera positioned on the other side. once initiated, the device inflates and grows in the direction of the camera, while the other side stays the same.
stanford's search and rescue snake robot is a slithering success
image by kirk hickman and aaron kehoe



the snake robot is able to turn and twist round difficult corners, depending on what it sees from the camera. this allows it to follow complex paths in order to reach its desired position. stanford university put their creation to the test by running a series of trials, where it successfully managed to move through flypaper, glue and nails and an icy wall. although it suffered a few punctures, it managed to continue all the way through to the end of the obstacle course. 



‘the body lengthens as the material extends from the end but the rest of the body doesn’t move,’ says elliot hawkes, lead author of the paper. ‘the body can be stuck to the environment or jammed between rocks, but that doesn’t stop the robot because the tip can continue to progress as new material is added to the end.’



the robot’s ability to itself to lift a 100-kg (220-lb) crate off the ground, spin around to create a free-standing structure, and squeeze through a gap just a tenth of its own diameter, has proven to researchers that it is a project worth developing. the significance of this research is the robot’s possible function in disaster relief or other emergency operations. at present, the prototype is made from cheap plastic, but researchers are planning on a newer model which would use tougher materials such as kevlar. it has been claimed that they could also grow using pressurized liquid instead of air, letting them deliver water to trapped people or to put out fires. 

stanford's search and rescue snake robot is a slithering success
image by L.A. cierco