Tokyo Scientists Invented a Flying Robot Spider Drone

Listen, we’re all big fans of science here—but sometimes, science gets it wrong. Case in point: Japanese engineers have created an utterly creepy robot spider that’s also capable of flying around like a drone.

The device—which has the equally abominable acronym “SPherIcally vectorable and Distributed rotors assisted Air-ground amphibious quadruped Robot” (SPIDAR)—was developed by researchers at The University of Tokyo. The bot uses a combination of motors and thrusters to both walk with a “creepy gait” and also take flight and soar right into your nightmares.

At first blush, it seems like these scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should. However, multimodal robots (or robots that have several different methods of movement) are highly sought after across a wide variety of sectors. If a bot is capable of moving about on the ground or on air, for instance, it allows for more use cases and flexibility in places like industry or the military.

Then again, that doesn’t quite explain why they had to make it so creepy.

Unlike its eight-legged counterpart in nature, SPIDAR has just four legs that don’t actually work that well on their own. Instead of relying on just the motors to walk around, each leg has four spinning propellers—or thrusters—on it that lift up each leg and rotate the limbs to walk around. This design helps keep the 33 lb robot lightweight enough to also take flight.

If you’re worried about a device like this flying or crawling towards you to attack, take heart in the fact that its battery doesn’t last all that long—roughly nine minutes while flying, or up to 18 minutes while crawling. It’s also still very much a prototype, so there’s a lot of room for improvement (not that we’d want that or anything).

While a flying robot spider drone is certainly creepy, it’s not entirely unheard to see this sort of thing in nature. In fact, there are some species of spiders that are capable of gliding around the air by constructing a kind of parachute out of its silk webbing (apologies for introducing a new fear).

Spiders have also been the inspiration for all manner of horrible robo-creatures including a robot that is capable of crawling up walls using magnetic feet. There’s also the stomach churning necrobots where scientists turned spider corpses into robots.

For now, many of these devices are thankfully confined to labs and universities. Let’s just hope that some mad scientist doesn’t take it a step further and build a giant robot spider a la Wild Wild West.

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