Cyborg rescue roaches showcased at Singapore security summit

An insect-hybrid robot – fitted with an infrared camera and sensors – navigating its way. — The Straits Times/ANN

SINGAPORE: A group of cockroaches were crawling in and out of tiny gaps in an exhibit with simulated rubble at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

But unlike their pesky ordinary counterparts, these are insect-hybrid robots, each fitted with an infrared camera and series of sensors, under development for use in search and rescue missions.

As the bugs are small in size – they are the Madagascar hissing cockroach, which averages 6cm when fully grown – they are able to navigate tiny spaces during missions while using minimal amounts of power compared with miniaturised robots.

When a group of them are released into rubble, they are able to detect life via the infrared cameras, providing front-line responders with critical information in emergency situations such as an earthquake.

The cyborg cockroaches are being developed by the Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX) together with Nanyang Technological University (NTU), and Klass Engineering and Solutions.

It leverages the insect-hybrid robot expertise of Professor Hirotaka Sato, the Provost’s Chair in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at NTU.

The 10 cyborg cockroaches were showcased at the Milipol Asia-Pacific and TechX Summit, held at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre from April 3 to April 5.

The inaugural event was co-organised by HTX, the GIE Milipol consortium, and events company Comexposium Singapore under the auspices of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Ministry of the Interior of France. It will be held biennially.

The trade exhibition showcases the latest innovations in homeland security, while the summit plays host to prominent government officials, industry leaders and academia, who will discuss issues such as emerging security threats and new security technologies.

More than 10,000 participants from around the world are expected at the 2024 event, which is themed Powering Innovation: A Safe And Secure Future.

There were more than 350 exhibitors from some 31 countries spread across 14,500 sq m of exhibition space, including tech giant Microsoft, South Korea’s Samsung and cryptography and biometrics company Idemia.

Both Minister for Home Affairs K. Shanmugam and France’s Minister of the Interior Gerald Darmanin attended the opening of the event, and delivered remarks that called for greater collaboration and partnership.

Also on display at the HTX pavilion was a new electric pump ladder, which was launched by Mr Shanmugam and Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo at the event on April 3.

The first of its kind in the region, the vehicle features dual electric motors that allow it to accelerate rapidly even in heavy traffic while remaining more stable than other vehicles of similar size when turning corners.

The vehicle is shorter and has a smaller turning radius compared with the traditional diesel engine pump ladders, and when needed, it can also be driven diagonally because its front and back wheels can be steered independently of one another.

Other initiatives by HTX that were on display included the Next-Generation Clearance Concept for immigration clearance which can clear travellers as they walk through, and the Home Team’s robotic dog Rover-X, which is packed with sensors and cameras, and can move autonomously.

Chan Tsan, the chief executive of HTX, said the pavilion takes centre stage at the exhibition hall and showcases initiatives from HTX and 37 of its industry partners.

He said: “I hope that (the event) will become a platform of choice for leaders and practitioners in the homeland security space to see and experience the latest tech innovations, discuss and learn from one another, grow their networks and spark new collaborations.

“And that like a good bottle of French wine, it will become better with age.” – The Straits Times (Singapore)/Asia News Network

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