They look like technology straight out of a "Mission: Impossible" movie: robot snakes armed with flashlights and hidden cameras, designed to slither through tight spaces, crawl through tubes, swim, and now climb trees.

Called "modsnakes" (the latest version is affectionately called "Uncle Sam"), the robots are based in biotechnology which mimics the movement of real snakes, according to Researchers hope that once the design has been perfected, the robots can be used to complete a variety of tasks such as locating survivors in collapsed buildings after a natural disaster, inspecting bridges, mines or other spaces too tight for human workers, and even for disarming bombs.

It's fun to imagine them being used as spy technology or as versatile exploratory rovers on other planets, too. The design is applicable in a variety of uses. (For now, they are just really cool to play with.) Check out this video showcasing the robot's many talents:

The robots are capable of movements that include side-winding, wiggling and rolling, much as a real snake might move. But unlike real snakes, these snakes are built using modular segments, meaning the snakes can be easily self-assembled in the field. Being modular also makes it easier to repair damaged segments, or to adjust the robot's length as needed.

Researchers admit that a lot of work needs to be done before the snakes can be used in a practical setting. For one, the robots are still reliant upon an attached cord for their power supply. Their new tree-climbing skill is also only applicable to trees and branches of a particular diameter.

Even so, the robotic snake's range of motion is impressive, and previous versions of the modsnake have already been tested in disaster training exercises. It may not be long before a slithering Uncle Sam redefines how we think of snakes — and robots — forever.

Bryan Nelson ( @@brynelson ) writes about everything from environmental problems here on Earth to big questions in space.

Scientists create robot snake that climbs trees
Metallic python is the latest in a series of robot snakes designed to inspect tight spaces, disarm bombs and locate disaster survivors.