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However on earth, the surgeons can control the robots themselves from other locations, Oleynikov said.
On battlefields, the robots could enable surgeons in other places to work on injured soldiers on the front line, said Shane Farritor, a university engineering professor who helped design them.
Researchers plan to seek federal regulatory approval early next year. Tests on animals have been successful, Oleynikov said, and tests on humans in England will begin in the spring.
The camera-carrying robots can provide views of affected areas and the ones with surgical tools will be able to maneuver inside the body in ways surgeons' hands can't, Oleynikov said.
Because several robots can be inserted through one incision, they could reduce the amount and size of cuts needed for surgery, which would decrease recovery time, Oleynikov said.