Hopping to the Rescue

Thanks, KG, for the post

One of the major obstacles in using robots for search-and-rescue is the fact that most cannot navigate uneven, rocky terrain. Luckily, a Swiss robotics lab has developed the world’s smallest hopping robot, which can propel itself eight feet into the air, a record-breaking 27 times its own height. It uses “two spring-loaded feet powered by the same type of motor that vibrates your cellphone.” This technology is much quicker and more effective than walking or rolling robots; standing two inches tall and weighing only seven grams, it can still carry half its weight in cameras and sensors. The best thing about it? The inspiration came from nature.

Engineers Dario Floreano and Mirko Kovac, of the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems in Lausanne, modeled this hopping helper after grasshoppers, which can easily cover up to three feet on uneven ground in a single bound. Cameras and global positioning systems will enable swarms of these little robots to perform search-and-rescue operations, as well as possibly mapping environmental disaster areas, and even surveying other planets.

Before you venture out into the woods with complete insouciance, there are still improvements to be made. The mechanical grasshoppers still have some trouble sticking landings, and are unable to direct themselves. Floreano and Kovac may attach wings to the machine to help stabilize the hopping robot much in the way grasshoppers’ wings do. The attachment of solar panels, simple sensors and a microprocessor could allow the robots to control its hopping, recharge its battery, and possibly even communicate with other robots in the swarm. This technology still has a few hurdles to jump, but someday it may help to make the world a safer place.

Comments are closed.