Sidewinder snake inspires robot

Robots can now climb sand hills by using the motion of a sidewinder snake, says new research.
17 October 2014


The latest discovery in robotic snake technology, means that by replicating the motion of sidewinders, robotic snakes can now climb sand dunes.Sidewinder Snake

Sidewinder snakes have an incredible way of moving across sand, which means that they can move up sandy hills easily. To achieve this feat they simply increase the amount of their body in contact with the sand, says research published in Science by a collaboration between the Georgia Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, Oregon State University, and Zoo Atlanta.

Before the study, the team already had a robotic snake, but it was unable to move up hills, so they looked to nature for a solution.

The researchers placed sidewinder snakes on a unique bed of inclined sand that could be varied in slope. By using three high-speed cameras, they were able to track the motion of the sidewinder, and then program their own robotic snake to mimic this motion.

"We have transferred what we learnt from biology, to the engineering world," says Hamid Marvi, a postdoctoral fellow at Carnegie Mellon. "Now the robot can climb on loose sand up to 20 degrees."

Being able to climb on sand is a useful property to have, especially if the robot is involved with search and rescue missions, or exploratory missions on other planets. 

"The surfaces that the robot is going to interact with are not flat," continued Marvi. "There are all sorts of different inclinations covered with different sorts of granular material, and that's why it is extremely important for the robot to be able to handle those situations." 

Click to listen to the full interview with Hamid Marvi. 


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