VMI Builds 'Tick Rover' Robot, Results Successful

Lexington, VA - Engineers at VMI are working on a robot that so far has proven to be unstoppable in the war on ticks.

Shortly after Dr. James Squire found ticks on his son's head, he started putting together ideas that would eventually see the world of engineering cross paths with the world of pest control.

The discovery ultimately led to a lightweight robot that is specifically designed to take on the growing outdoor problem.

"We found that it was really successful. We scattered 50 ticks and we found that the Tick Rover picked up 45 of them," said Dr. James Squire, a VMI Engineering Professor .

The "Tick Rover" is a robot has proven to be very effective against the blood sucking, disease carrying insects in a number of field tests.

The robot emulates an animal that brings hungry ticks running, only to be swept up as the rover makes pass after pass over affected areas.

"Using ticks' behavior and engineering a solution to that behavior... to solve that particular problem. That was the real challenge," Dr. David Livingston said.

To take care of the ticks, a carbon dioxide releasing tube is laid out which the rover follows at a pace that convinces ticks this robot is actually an animal.

"When they sense carbon dioxide they sense a blood meal is nearby and they run. You can actually see them scuttle onto this tube and then run along it searching for where that live animal is," Squire said.

Tests on the robot have astounded leading entomologists as well. Results have the engineers involved quite excited.

"It's got carbon dioxide. It's something moving. It's something that is very easy to cling to. And those are the kinds of behaviors we exploited, basically... successfully," Livingston said.