Gliding Robot Unfolds Bat or Locust Wings to Fly
A still from a video showing a batwing design for a robot capable of both jumping and gliding.
A bat-inspired robot may not strike the same fear in the hearts of criminals as a certain dark knight superhero, but its folding wing design allows it to transform a simple jump into a much longer glide. Such hybrid movements modeled on biological creatures could allow miniature robots to cover far greater distances.
The "EPFL Jumpglider" robot comes from the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland. It steers itself by jumping in a chosen direction and extending its wings to glide, as seen in a several new videos posted by EPFL and pointed out by IEEE Spectrum's Automaton Blog. Having a dual jumping and gliding capability allows the robot to not only descend safely from tall buildings, but also to hop along on the ground.
The batwing design gets a special focus in one of the newest videos posted on Dec. 24, while a locust-based design features in yet another new video. Unlike the batwing's segmented folding, the locust wing starts from a swept back position and then extends into a complete wing once the robot leaps into the air.
Such robots still just represent prototypes, but might someday lead to new miniature robots capable of carrying out missions such as scouting dangerous battlefields or disaster sites. Similar robots such as a military-funded scout drone modeled on a hummingbird have also found inspiration in natural designs.
More details on the Jumpglider are available at the website of Mirko Kovac, a post-doctoral researcher at the Microrobotics Laboratory of Harvard University.