This Bipedal Drone Robotic Can Stroll, Fly, Skateboard, and Slackline



Most animals are restricted to both strolling, flying, or swimming, with a handful of fortunate species whose physiology permits them to cross over. A brand new robotic took inspiration from them, and may fly like a chicken simply in addition to it may well stroll like a (weirdly awkward, metallic, tiny) individual. It additionally occurs to have the ability to skateboard and slackline, two expertise most people won’t ever choose up.
Described in a paper revealed this week in Science Robotics, the robotic’s title is Leo, which is brief for Leonardo, which is brief for LEgs ONboARD drOne. The title makes it sound like a drone with legs, nevertheless it has a considerably humanoid form, with multi-joint legs, propeller thrusters that appear to be arms, a “physique” that incorporates its motors and electronics, and a dome-shaped safety helmet.
Leo was constructed by a crew at Caltech, they usually had been significantly considering how the robotic would transition between strolling and flying. The crew notes that they studied the best way birds use their legs to generate thrust after they take off, and utilized related rules to the robotic. In a video that reveals Leo approaching a staircase, taking off, and gliding over the steps to land close to the underside, the robotic’s motions are seamlessly swish.

“There’s a similarity between how a human carrying a jet swimsuit controls their legs and toes when touchdown or taking off and the way LEO makes use of synchronized management of distributed propeller-based thrusters and leg joints,” mentioned Quickly-Jo Chung, one of many paper’s authors a professor at Caltech. “We wished to review the interface of strolling and flying from the dynamics and management standpoint.”
Leo walks at a velocity of 20 centimeters (7.87 inches) per second, however can transfer sooner by mixing in some flying with the strolling. How extensive our steps are, the place we place our toes, and the place our torsos are in relation to our legs all assist us stability after we stroll. The robotic makes use of its propellers to assist it stability, whereas its leg actuators transfer it ahead.
To show the robotic to slackline—which is far tougher than strolling on a stability beam—the crew overrode its toes contact sensors with a set digital foot contact centered simply beneath it, as a result of the sensors weren’t in a position to detect the road. The propellers performed an enormous half as effectively, serving to maintain Leo upright and balanced.
For the robotic to experience a skateboard, the crew broke the method down into two distinct elements: controlling the steering angle and controlling the skateboard’s acceleration and deceleration. Putting Leo’s legs in particular spots on the board made it tilt to allow steering, and ahead acceleration was achieved by transferring the bot’s middle of mass backward whereas pitching the physique ahead on the similar time.
So moreover being cool (and a bit creepy), what’s the objective of growing a robotic like Leo? The paper authors see robots like Leo enabling a variety of robotic missions that couldn’t be carried out by floor or aerial robots.
“Maybe essentially the most well-suited purposes for Leo could be those that contain bodily interactions with constructions at a excessive altitude, that are normally harmful for human employees and name for a substitution by robotic employees,” the paper’s authors mentioned. Examples may embrace high-voltage line inspection, portray tall bridges or different high-up surfaces, inspecting constructing roofs or oil refinery pipes, or touchdown delicate tools on an extraterrestrial object.
Subsequent up for Leo is an improve to its efficiency by way of a extra inflexible leg design, which can assist help the robotic’s weight and improve the thrust pressure of its propellers. The crew additionally needs to make Leo extra autonomous, and plans so as to add a drone touchdown management algorithm to its software program, in the end aiming for the robotic to have the ability to determine the place and when to stroll versus fly.
Leo hasn’t fairly achieved the wow issue of Boston Dynamics’ dancing robots (or its Atlas that may do parkour), nevertheless it’s on its method.
Picture Credit score: Caltech Heart for Autonomous Methods and Applied sciences/Science Robotics