A robot sloth will (very slowly) survey endangered species

Slower is sometimes better.

Rob Felt, Georgia Tech

Most animal-inspired robots are designed to move quickly, but Georgia Tech’s latest is just the opposite. Their newly developed SlothBot is built to study animals, plants and the overall environment below them by moving as little as possible. It inches along overhead cables only when necessary, charging itself with solar panels to monitor factors like carbon dioxide levels and weather for as long as possible — possibly for years. It even crawls toward the sunlight to ensure it stays charged.

The 3D-printed shell helps SlothBot blend in (at least in areas where sloths live) while sheltering its equipment from the rain.

The robot will start by watching over the Atlanta Botanical Garden for several months, hanging from a lone 100-foot cable. In the long run, though, researchers hope to have SlothBot covering wide areas with multiple cables. It could be vital for tracking endangered species and changes to their environments, such as orchid pollination by endangered frogs, with minimal intrusion by humans or having to crawl over obstacles like rocks. The bot could even be useful for precision agriculture, where it might spot bugs or diseases before human farmers do.