US scientists developed a small jumping robot that can leap into the air and then spring off a wall. Scientists got the inspiration from some of the animal world’s best leapers that could one day help in rescue works after earthquakes or building collapses.
Science journal, Science Robotics reported that the robot can jump one metre in less than one second. The robot is known as Salto (saltatorial locomotion on terrain obstacles), a 26-cm tall robot. It can leap higher than a bullfrog and almost as high as a galago or bush baby, a small primate which found in Africa.
University of California-Berkeley in the US studied the animal world throughly to build Salto. They have studied most vertically agile creature the galago which can jump five times in just four seconds to get the combined height of 8.5 metres.
The animal has a special ability to store energy in its tendons so that it can jump higher. It can jump so well because its tendons are loaded with energy by its muscles when it is in a crouched position. Researchers adapted this process to develop Salto to get the high vertical agility including the wall jump.
Its design was based on the power modulation which used by the galago. Power modulation is an adaptation found in natural systems that increase the peak power available for jumping by storing muscular energy in stretchy tendons.
The robot’s vertical jumping agility is 1.75 m/s and it is higher than the vertical jumping agility of a bullfrog, 171 m/s but short of the vertical jumping agility of galapo, 2.24 m/s.
A robotics PHD candidate at UC Berkeley, Duncan Haldane who led the development said, “Developing a metric to easily measure vertical agility was key to Salto’s design because it allowed us to rank animals by their jumping agility and then identify a species for inspiration.”
A motor drives a spring inside the one-legged robot which loads via a leg mechanism to create the crouch that seen in the galago. Because of the power modulation, Salto does not wind up before a jump.
Salto weights 100 grams and is 26 cm tall when fully extended and can jump up to 1 metre. It can jump from the floor, flip forward and then kick off a wall.
The aim of the researchers was to help the rescuers. On a conference call, Haldane told the researchers, “What originally inspired us to do this work was speaking with first responders down at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Urban Search and Rescue Training site in Menlo Park, California, where they have these giant rubble piles simulating collapsed buildings.”
He added, “Our goal was to have a search-and-rescue robot small enough to not disturb the rubble further, and to move quickly across the many kinds of rubble produced by collapsed buildings.”
Salto does not have the power to pull a person from the rubble but rescuers might get a signal from it that could help them to find the location of a trapped person.
Salto is not ready for the real world use, now it was developed for lab use.
Another disadvantage is the battery life. The battery takes up 17 percent of the robot’s mass and allows it to function for only a couple of minutes at a time.
US Army Research Laboratory and the National Science Foundation funded the development.