There's great potential in using both drones and ground-based robots for situations like disaster response, but generally these platforms either fly or creep along the ground. Not the "Flying STAR," which does both quite well, and through a mechanism so clever and simple you'll wish you'd thought of it. Conceived by researchers at Ben-Gurion University in Israel, the "flying sprawl-tuned autonomous robot" is based on the elementary observation that both rotors and wheels spin. So why shouldn't a vehicle have both? Well, there are lots of good reasons why it's difficult to create such a hybrid, but the team, led by David Zarrouk, overcame them with the help of today's high-powered, lightweight drone components.
At first glance you might mistake this worm-like robot as a child's toy. But the innovative machine is the world's first 3D-printed robot that can move forwards or backwards in a wave-like motion. Its designers hope to miniaturise the robot to make it small enough to swallow, allowing it to crawl along through the intestines to actively visualise the digestive system. The innovative machine is the world's first 3D-printed robot that can move forwards or backwards in a wave-like motion The device is the world's first 3D-printed robot that can move forwards or backwards in a wave-like motion. It can climb over obstacles or crawl through unstable terrain like sand and grass, reaching top speeds of 57 centimetres/second – five times faster than similar robots.
The new Rising Sprawl-Tuned Autonomous Robot (RSTAR) utilizes adjustable sprawling wheel legs attached to a body that can move independently and reposition itself to run on flat surfaces, climb over large obstacles and up closely-spaced walls, and crawl through a tunnel, pipe or narrow gaps. The innovative BGU robot was introduced at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA 2018) in Brisbane, Australia, May 21-25. "The RSTAR is ideal for search and rescue operations in unstructured environments, such as collapsed buildings or flooded areas, where it must adapt and overcome a variety of successive obstacles to reach its target," says Dr. David Zarrouk, a lecturer in BGU's Department of Mechanical Engineering, and head of the Bio-Inspired and Medical Robotics Lab. "It is the newest member of our family of STAR robots." Dr. Zarrouk and BGU student and robotics lab worker Liran Yehezkel designed RSTAR to function simply and reliably, change shape and overcome common obstacles without any external mechanical intervention.
Every time we come back from a robotics conference thinking, "Okay, that's it, people are out of ideas, there are no more unique ways of getting robots to move," someone comes along and proves us wrong with something completely unexpected and cool. More than once, that someone has been David Zarrouk, who came up with the world's fastest inchworm robot and this robot, which can drive forward and steer left and right using just one motor. In a paper recently published in the journal Bioinspiration & Biomimetics, Zarrouk describes his latest innovative robot: SAW, or Single Actuator Wave-like robot, "a novel bioinspired robot which can move forward or backward by producing a continuously advancing wave." As far as I can tell, real worms don't actually get around by doing the worm. The worm (the dance move, that is) is a large-amplitude continuously advancing sine wave, which is also how SAW moves.
We're always impressed by the way David Zarrouk (a professor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev by way of UC Berkeley's Biomimetic Millisystems Lab) manages to extract a ton of functionality from the absolute minimum of hardware in his robots. In the past, we've seen clever designs like a steerable robot that only uses a single motor, and a multi-jointed robot arm that uses a traveling motor to actuate all of its degrees of freedom. At the 2018 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in Brisbane, Zarrouk presented an update to STAR, the Sprawl-Tuned Autonomous Robot that we first wrote about in 2013. Called Rising STAR, or RSTAR, it takes the sprawling wheel-leg mobility and adds another degree of freedom that allows the body of the robot to move separately from the legs, changing its center of mass to help it climb over obstacles. RSTAR is the latest in Zarrouk's series of sprawling robots, designed to handle all kinds of terrain obstacles while minimizing cost of transport.