Israeli researchers have developed a locust-inspired robot that could be used in search and rescue or reconnaissance operations in rough terrain.
The record-breaking creature can jump to a height of almost 3.5 meters, more than twice that of other, similar-sized robots. They are also capable of covering a distance of 1.4 meters in one leap.
About 13cm long and weighing approximately 30 grams, the insect-like robot has been developed by a team of zoologists and robotics engineers from the Tel Aviv University in Israel.
"Miniature robots are of special interest in the robotics field, attracting a lot of attention and research,” said Professor Amir Ayali of the Department of Zoology at Tel Aviv University's Faculty of Life Sciences.
“The manufacture of tiny robots is cheap and efficient; their small size allows them to traverse difficult and unknown terrain; and many can be used in any given situation."
The 3D printed robot‘s body is made of the same material as Lego building bricks. To create its agile legs, the engineers used carbon rods, which are assisted by steel wire torsion springs.
The robot is powered by a small on-board battery and can be controlled remotely through an on-board microcontroller.
"Our research is a true interdisciplinary biology-engineering collaborative effort," said Professor Ayali said. "Biological knowledge, gained by observing and studying locusts, was combined with state-of-the-art engineering and cutting-edge technologies, allowing biological principles to be implemented in a miniature robotic jumping mechanism."
Similarly to a real locust, the robot catapults itself in a three-stage process that results in a rapid release of energy. A real locust first bends its legs, locks them in place at the joint and then rapidly releases the flexor muscle on the upper leg to unlock the joint. In the case of the robot, the mechanical energy is stored in the torsion springs.
The researchers want to further extend the robots jumping range through a gliding mechanism that will also lower its landing impact and enable it to execute multiple steered jumps and stabilise itself while airborne.