Brits design fly-eating autobot

Uses human excrement to attract lunch


Scientists at the University of the West of England have designed a potentially autonomous robot which feeds on flies attracted by human excrement and uses them to generate electricity, the New Scientist reports.

EcoBot II is reckoned to be a real step towards "release and forget" autonomous robots - albeit it a small one. At present, EcoBot II has to be fed bluebottles manually by its creators and can generate enough juice to travel at about 10 centimetres an hour.

The device uses the chitin in the fly's exoskeleton for fuel. The six-legged snacks are digested by bacteria in eight "microbial fuel cells" (anaerobic chambers filled with raw sewage slurry). The bacteria produce enzymes which break down the fly chitin, releasing sugars which the bacteria then absorb and metabolise. This latter process produces electrons which EcoBot II captures to generate electricity.

So far, so good. But the next challenge for the team is to enable its roving robotic insectivore to acquire its own lunch. While lead boffin Chris Melhuish admits that "one of the great things about flies is that you can get them to come to you", the sticky problem of how to capture them is yet to be resolved. The scientists say that a solution would perhaps "involve using a bottleneck-style flytrap with some form of pump to suck the flies into the digestion chambers".

EcoBot II is intended for use in inhospitable environments where humans might fear to tread - which is just as well. As the New Scientist notes, any fly-noshing autobot which deploys human excrement as a means to get its neck in the trough is going to "stink to high heaven". ®

Related stories

Qinetiq bags robot maker
Epson parades tea cup-sized flying robot
DARPA figures out how to run a $2m robot race


Other stories you might like

  • The future: Windows streaming through notched Apple screens

    Choice is the word for Jamf's Dean Hager

    Interview As Apple's devices continue to find favour with enterprise users, the fortress that is Windows appears to be under attack in the corporate world.

    Speaking to The Register as the Jamf Nation User Conference wound down, the software firm's CEO, Dean Hager, is - unsurprisingly - ebullient when it comes to the prospects for Apple gear in the world of suits.

    Jamf specialises in device management and authentication, and has long been associated with managing Apple hardware in business and education environments. In recent years it has begun connecting its products with services such as Microsoft's Azure Active Directory as administrators face up to a hybrid working future.

    Continue reading
  • There’s a wave of ransomware coming down the pipeline. What can you do about it?

    AI can help. Here’s how…

    Sponsored The Colonial Pipeline attack earlier this year showed just how devastating a ransomware attack is when it is targeted at critical infrastructure.

    It also illustrated how traditional security techniques are increasingly struggling to keep pace with determined cyber attackers, whether their aim is exfiltrating data, extorting organisations, or simply causing chaos. Or, indeed an unpleasant combination of all three.

    So, what are your options? More people looking for more flaws isn’t going to be enough – there simply aren’t enough skilled people, there are too many bugs, and there are way too many attackers. So, it’s clear that smart cyber defenders need to be supplemented by even smarter technology incorporating AI. You can learn what this looks like by checking out this upcoming Regcast, “Securing Critical Infrastructure from Cyber-attack” on October 28 at 5pm.

    Continue reading
  • Ransomware criminals have feelings too: BlackMatter abuse caused crims to shut down negotiation portal

    Or so says infsec outfit Emsisoft

    Hurling online abuse at ransomware gangs may have contributed to a hardline policy of dumping victims' data online, according to counter-ransomware company Emsisoft.

    Earlier this month, the Conti ransomware gang declared it would publish victims' data and break off ransom negotiations if anyone other than "respected journalist and researcher personalities" [sic] dared publish snippets of ransomware negotiations, amid a general hardening of attitudes among ransomware gangs.

    Typically these conversation snippets make it into the public domain because curious people log into ransomware negotiation portals hosted by the criminals. The BlackMatter (aka DarkSide) gang's portal credentials (detailed in a ransom note) became exposed to the wider world, however, and the resulting wave of furious abuse hurled at the crims prompted them to pull up the virtual drawbridge.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021