Scientists at the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) are developing snake-like technology in an effort to create robotic snakes for search-and-rescue missions.

The project, known as the robotic tentacle manipulator involves arranging a group of snakes in a circular array that function like a team to manipulate an object, scan a room or handle improvised explosive devices.

A snake-robot can be built as a large or small subsystem to a larger platform like iRobot‘s rugged system Warrior, which travels over rough terrain and climbs stairs.

The number of tentacles determines the scope of its search capabilities as well as its ability to crawl, swim, climb or shimmy through narrow spaces while transmitting images to the operator.

The amphibious snake will be equipped with a large-screen laptop as a simple user interface and sophisticated electronic sensors including laser detection and ranging to provide 3D representations and physical properties like faces, mass and centre of mass.

ARL scientist Derek Scherer said the technology is leading to more than just the very tip of the snake being used in the object manipulation effect.

“Touch sensitivity allows the platform to lift and reposition objects, including IEDs, for examination, and do so in a controlled fashion that is unlikely to detonate any ordnance,” he said.

Hardware of the snake robot includes a master controller system to direct each 24cm tentacle and communicate with the embedded motors in the tentacles.