Spiderbots placed inside Mount St. Helens can not only communicate with each other - they can form a robust "self-healing network" that can survive the loss of individual bots to volcanic activity.
The fifteen spiderbots - named by the leveling arms sticking out of their small metal bodies - were lowered into place by helicopter.
Each has a seismometer for detecting earthquakes, an infrared sensor to detect heat from volcanic explosions, a sensor to detect ash clouds, and a global positioning system to sense the ground bulging and pinpoint the exact location of seismic activity.
Once in place, the bots reached out to each other to form what is known as a mesh network. "It's similar to the internet," says Steve Chien, the principal scientist for autonomous systems at JPL. "You just lay them out, and they figure out the best way to route the data."
Take a look at this brief spiderbot video to learn more.
(Spiderbot self-healing ad hoc network video)
In his recent novel Halting State, Charles Stross presented a very detailed and enjoyable description of a network that can be deployed by tossing nodes into an area. This combat network links itself up upon deployment.
Unfortunately, I'm traveling and I can't get to my copy of the book for the relevant quote.