Australian peacock spider
Australian peacock spider YouTube screen grab

Telugu film 'Spyder' has shown in its trailer, a spider crawling up to the shoulder of an intelligence wing officer, played by Telugu hero Mahesh Babu. But in the real film, no trace of a robot 'spyder' was seen, making no connection with the trailer that has gone viral.

But researchers at the University of Manchester are already headlong in such micro-robotics projects to create jumping robot spiders and swarms of robotic bees. Led by Dr Mostafa Nabawy, the team from the University of Manchester's School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering, will present their paper titled, "Spiders Attack: The rise of bioinspired microrobots" at Manchester's Industry 4.0 Summit on Thursday, March 1.

"For our robotic spiders' research, we are looking at a specific species of jumping spider called Phidippus regius," explained Nabawy. The team has trained the microrobot to jump different distances and heights, after recording the real spider's every movement in extreme detail through high-resolution cameras which can be slowed down.

Using the data to model robots, the team has already started developing prototype robots that can mimic these biomechanical movements and jump several centimetres, said Nabawy.

The particular species of spiders was selected because these jumping spiders jump to six-times longer than humans and it provides a wide variety of inputs for future unknown environments for microrobots, said Dr Nabawy, who is combining his research background in aerodynamics, aircraft design, and the modelling of engineering systems.

The team is also working on flying robot bee that can fly independently. He said:"We're aiming to create the world's first robot bee that can fly unaided and unaccompanied. These technologies can also be used for many different applications, including improving the current aerodynamic performances of aircraft... Imagine if the current trend of a declining bee population continues, swarms of robot bees pollinating crops and flowers could become a reality."