Researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) present a new type of robot that bridges the gap between two different locomotion regimes of flying and walking. IEEE Spectrum reported that the robot has lightweight bipedal legs and torso-mounted thrusters capable of lifting the entire robot off the ground.
Caltech's Center for Autonomous Systems and Technologies (CAST) first introduced the robot in 2019 in which it was reported that the new robot called the LEg ON Aerial Robotic DrOne (LEONARDO) will be able to balance and leap tall buildings in a single bound.
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The newest version of LEONARDO is different from the version Caltech has introduced two years ago. But most notably, it has changed its name to "LEgs ONboARD drOne." It has completed a redesign with a newer version that shares no parts in neither hardware more software with its 2019 version.
Caltech researchers told IEEE Spectrum that the old version "unfortunately never worked." The old robot was more limited than the new version because it could not walk and its thrusters were only used for jumping instead of flying like a drone.
On the other hand, Futurism described it as a creepy robot that can walk and fly. The news outlet reported that the researchers' goal in making LEONARDO was to test new ways of locomotion for robots that are meant to complete hazardous missions and explore hard-to-reach places.
The team also said that their creepy invention could carry equipment on other planets, such as Mars or on Saturn's moon Titan. In a news release by Caltech, the corresponding author of the paper Soon-Jo Chung said that they drew inspiration from nature, particularly on how birds walk and fly.
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How Does LEONARDO Works?
Bipedal robots are designed to tackle complex real-world terrains by using concepts that are applied to how humans walk, jump, run, and even climb stairs, but are limited on rough terrain. Meanwhile, flying robots have the capacity to navigate tough terrain by simply avoiding the ground.
Co-lead author Kyunam Kim said that robots with multimodal locomotion can address challenges experienced by bipedal and flying robots. In LEO's case, it bridges the gap between two disparate domains of bipedalism and aerial locomotion that are not typical in robots.
LEO's lightweight legs take off the load from the thrusters as it could choose to either walk or fly; it can even choose to use both as needed. More so, LEO can perform unusual locomotion maneuvers that even humans find hard balancing, such as slacklining and skateboarding.
The 2.5-foot tall robot can adjust the position and orientation of its legs to move forward while also maintaining balance. In flying, it only uses its thrusters like a common drone. But LEO's propellers also ensure that it stands upright as it walks and moves. In short, the synchronized walking and flying controller help LEO to move.
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