Climbing and flying shape-shifting robots are here

American scientists have developed a robot nicknamed “Morphobot” (M4), which can move through various terrain and air on land through attachments between wheels, propellers, legs and hands. The study was published June 27 in Nature Communications.

Some animals can adapt their limbs to cope with different terrains. For example, sea lions can walk on the ground with flippers, foxes can stand on their hind limbs to scout their surroundings, and stone chickens can climb steep slopes with their limbs with the help of wings. By simulating an animal’s ability to change the use of its limbs, mobile robots with versatile limbs can adjust their movement strategies to traverse complex terrain.

Inspired by animals, Alireza Ramezani and colleagues at Northeastern University designed the M4, which weighs 6 kilograms, measures 70 centimeters, is 35 centimeters high and 35 centimeters wide. The robot has four legs, each with two joints, and a fixed ducted fan at the end of the leg. The function of the duct fan can be switched between legs, propeller propellers or wheels. The M4 is adaptable to walking on rough ground, climbing steep slopes, rolling over large obstacles, flying at heights, and creeping through low passages.

“Inspired by animals like birds, foxes and seals, our robots can explore their surroundings through different movement modes, including flying, spinning, crawling, creeping, balancing and tumbling.” Ramezani said research could help design robots that can traverse a variety of environments, such as those used in natural disaster search and rescue, space exploration and autonomous package delivery.

According to the authors, the results demonstrate the advantages of designing multifunctional appendages that can traverse a variety of challenging terrains. (Source: China Science News Feng Lifei)

Image courtesy of Ramezani

Shape-shifting robots have excellent balance. Image courtesy of Ramezani

Transform into a flying robot Image courtesy of Ramezani

Outdoor flight test Image courtesy of Ramezani

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