Researchers from the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) have developed a jumping robot inspired by the grasshopper.
Although the robot only weighs 7g, it can jump 1.4m, or more than 27 times its body size – ten times farther for its size and weight than any existing jumping robot.
The researchers claim that the robots could be fitted out with tiny sensors to explore rough, inaccessible terrain or to aid in search and rescue operations.
‘This biomimetic form of jumping is unique because it allows micro-robots to travel over many types of rough terrain where no other walking or wheeled robot could go,’ explained EPFL Prof Dario Floreano. ‘The tiny jumping robots could be fitted with solar cells to recharge between jumps and deployed in swarms for extended exploration of remote areas on Earth or other planets,’ he added.
Small jumping creatures such as fleas, locusts, grasshoppers and frogs use elastic storage mechanisms to slowly charge and quickly release their jumping energy. In this way, they can achieve very powerful jumps and very high accelerations.
The EPFL robot uses the same principle, charging two torsion springs via a small 0.6g pager motor and a cam. In order to optimise the jumping performance, the legs can be adjusted for jumping force, takeoff angle and force profile during the acceleration phase.
A tiny on board battery allows it to make up to 320 jumps at intervals of three seconds.