Sandia requests hopping robot

Boston Dynamics, the developer of robots such as BigDog and Petman, has been awarded a contract by Sandia National Laboratories to develop a four-wheeled hopping robot called the Precision Urban Hopper.

When fully operational, the robot will navigate autonomously and will be able to jump onto or over obstacles of more than 25ft, said Jon Salton, Sandia’s programme manager.

The development programme, funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Department of Defense’s advanced technology organisation, has a 12-month design phase followed by a six-month build phase, with testing and delivery planned for late 2010.

The robots’ hopping capability allows the small unmanned ground vehicles to overcome as many as 30 obstacles that are 40 to 60 times their own size.

In addition to providing military assistance, the hopping capabilities of the robots could also be used in law enforcement, homeland security, search and rescue applications in challenging terrain, and planetary exploration, Salton said.

‘We are delighted to win this project and get a chance to work with Sandia on such a novel and potentially useful robot,’ said Marc Raibert, president and founder of Boston Dynamics.