Washington: The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is developing a new troop of robots that could one day race across distant planets as a sort of space exploration vanguard.
Dubbed as "swarmies", the remote controlled toy truck-like robots are much smaller than other robots such as Mars rover Curiosity.
Equipped with a webcam, wi-fi antenna and GPS system for navigation, the swarmies work like an ant colony, media reports said.
Like an ant, once one of the robots finds something interesting, it can use radio communication to call its robotic brethren over to help collect samples.
A software developed by the engineers from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida directs the swarmies to fan out in different directions and search for a specific, predetermined material, like water on Mars.
"For a while people were interested in inserting as much capability as they could into one robot," Kurt Leucht, a NASA scientist who is working on the project, was quoted as saying.
Now people are realising you can have much smaller and simpler robots who can work together and achieve a task, he added.
NASA engineers are also working on snake-like robots that could explore Mars and deep diving robots that could explore the oceans of Jupiter's moon Europa, reports added.