A new design of ‘jumping’ robot could get to places that conventional wheeled, tracked or walking robots can’t reach.
Inspired by the way that grasshoppers jump, researchers from the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems at the École Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne have developed a ‘micro-robot’, which they say could “travel over many types of rough terrain where no other walking or wheeled robot could go." Ideal for exploring places like the surface of Mars. The robot weighs just 7 grams, and can jump 1.4 meters in the air, 27 times it’s own height – that’s ten times further for it’s size and weight than any existing jumping robot.
Grasshoppers, and other insects like fleas and locusts are able to jump many times their own height by slowly building up energy in elastic muscles, then releasing it all very quickly. This robot copies this technique by using a small motor and a cam to ‘charge up two springs, and then releases this energy in an almighty jump.
Adding the solar panels and sensors required will make the robot heavier, and so will likely reduce the maximum jumping height. But lots of micro-robots like these released in a swarm could allow us to take measurements of previously unexplored, and unexplorable places.