Snakes may not be the most loved animals on the planet, but their unique design has inspired the creation of a new rescue robot that can reach currently inaccessible areas in disaster zones created by tsunamis and earthquakes.

Developed by Pinwei Jin, a Master of Engineering student at the University of Waikato in New Zealand, the robotic snake is flexible enough to slither under rubble and into tight spaces. 

Once it finds someone trapped, the snake would send a message back to a rescue crew who could move in to help them. This would save valuable time that could mean the difference between life and death. 

Robots already play an important role in rescue missions, but most are wheeled, which can make it hard for them to get into extremely cramped and cluttered spaces.

"The Snake Robot features a wireless camera on its head and is controlled by a wireless joystick to move forward, backwards, left and right," said Jin in a press release. "It has 16 degrees of freedom from the eight joints, nine segments, 16 motors and nine passive wheels. Essentially it can move along the ground like a snake."

He's already showcased the prototype of the Snake Robot at University of Waikato's Carter Holt Harvey Pulp & Paper Engineering Design Show, and hopes that in the future it could be produced more widely.

"Earthquakes and other natural disasters happen frequently in New Zealand and when it comes to the big ones, many lives could be saved if search and rescue operations were conducted more effectively and efficiently," said Jin in the release.

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Source: University of Waikato