Grasshopper like robot created for space exploration

December 5th, 2008 - 5:43 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Dec 5 (IANS) The first robot that can jump like a grasshopper and roll like a ball could play a key role in space exploration.The ‘Jollbot’, created by Rhodri Armour, PhD student from University of Bath, can jump over obstacles and roll over smoother terrain, could be used for space exploration or land survey work.

One of the major challenges that face robots designed for space exploration is being able to move over rough terrain. Robots with legs are generally very complex, expensive to build and control, and encounter problems if they fall over.

Wheels are a simpler solution to this, but are limited by the size of obstacles they can overcome, said a Bath release.

Accordingly, Rhodri and colleagues at the University’s Centre for Biomimetic and Natural Technologies have been looking to nature for inspiration - designing a robot that jumps obstacles in its path like an insect.

The ‘Jollbot’ is shaped like a spherical cage which can roll in any direction, giving it the manoeuvrability of wheels without the problem of overturning or getting stuck in potholes.

The robot is also flexible and small, weighing less than a kg, meaning it’s not damaged when landing after jumping and is therefore less expensive than conventional exploration robots.

Armour explained: “Others in the past have made robots that jump and robots that roll; but we’ve made the first robot that can do both.

“We’ve made a robot that jumps in a similar way to the grasshopper, but uses electrical motors to slowly store the energy needed to leap in its springy skeleton.

Armour, who has just submitted his PhD thesis, took measurements using a high speed camera to analyse how the robot jumped and to predict how it might behave in a low-gravity environment, such as in space.

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