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Robot follows in cricket’s footleaps

May 21, 2008
Courtesy Ecole Polytechnique 
Fédérale de Lausanne
and World Science staff

A new, grasshopper-inspired ro­bot that weighs little more than a me­di­um-sized coin and can jump more than 27 times its body size.

These jumpers could be fit­ted out with ti­ny sen­sors to ex­plore dif­fi­cult ter­rain or to aid in search and res­cue opera­t­ions, the de­vel­op­ers said.

About the size of a loc-ust, this tiny ro-bot can jump 27 times its own size. (Cour-tesy Alain Her-zog, EPFL)


Their mech­an­ism “is un­ique be­cause it al­lows mi­cro-ro­bots to trav­el over many types of rough ter­rain where no oth­er walk­ing or wheeled ro­bot could go,” said de­vel­op­er Da­ri­o Flo­re­ano of the Fed­er­al Pol­y­tech­nic School of Lau­sanne, Switz­er­land. 

“These ti­ny jump­ing ro­bots could be fit­ted with so­lar cells to re­charge be­tween jumps and de­ployed in swarms for ex­tend­ed ex­plora­t­ion of re­mote ar­eas on Earth or on oth­er plan­ets.”

The de­vices were pre­sented at the In­sti­tute of Elec­tri­cal and Elec­tron­ics En­gi­neers In­terna­t­ional Con­fer­ence on Robotics and Au­toma­t­ion May 21 in Pas­a­de­na, Calif. The ti­ny ro­bots weigh seven grams (one-fourth of an ounce) and can leap 1.4 me­ters (4.6 feet.)

Small jump­ing an­i­mals such as fleas, lo­custs, grasshop­pers and frogs use so-called elas­tic en­er­gy stor­age to slowly charge and quickly re­lease their en­er­gy. In this way, they can achieve pow­er­ful jumps and high ac­celera­t­ions. 

The jump­ing ro­bot uses the same prin­ci­ple, re­search­ers said, charg­ing two tor­sion springs via a small 0.6-gram pager mo­tor and a cam. To op­ti­mize the jump­ing, the legs can be ad­justed for jump­ing force, take­off an­gle and force pro­file dur­ing the ac­celera­t­ion phase, de­vel­op­ers added. A ti­ny bat­tery on board al­lows the de­vice to make up to 320 jumps, three sec­onds apart.


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Researchers have unveiled a new, grasshopper-inspired jumping robot that weighs as much as a medium-sized coin and can jump more than 27 times its body size. These jumpers could be fitted out with tiny sensors to explore rough, inaccessible terrain or to aid in search and rescue operations, the developers said. Their mechanism “is unique because it allows micro-robots to travel over many types of rough terrain where no other walking or wheeled robot could go,” said developer Dario Floreano of the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne, Switzerland. “These tiny jumping robots could be fitted with solar cells to recharge between jumps and deployed in swarms for extended exploration of remote areas on Earth or on other planets.” The devices were presented at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers International Conference on Robotics and Automation May 21 in Pasadena, Calif.. The tiny robots weigh a mere 7 grams (one-fourth of an ounce) and can leap 1.4 meters (4.6 feet.) Small jumping animals such as fleas, locusts, grasshoppers and frogs use so-called elastic energy storage to slowly charge and quickly release their jumping energy. In this way, they can achieve powerful jumps and high accelerations. The jumping robot uses the same principle, researchers said, charging two torsion springs via a small 0.6-gram pager motor and a cam. To optimize the jumping, the legs can be adjusted for jumping force, takeoff angle and force profile during the acceleration phase, developers added. A tiny battery on board allows the device to make up to 320 jumps, three seconds apart.