Search-and-rescue robot mimics movement of snakes

Georgia Tech researchers have observed the locomotion of snakes in order to develop an all-terrain robot for search-and-rescue missions.

‘By using their scales to control frictional properties, snakes are able to move large distances while exerting very little energy,’ said Hamid Marvi, a mechanical engineering PhD candidate at Georgia Tech.

While studying and videotaping the movements of 20 different species at Zoo Atlanta, Marvi developed Scalybot 2, a robot that is claimed to replicate the rectilinear locomotion of snakes.

In a statement, Marvi said: ‘During rectilinear locomotion, a snake doesn’t have to bend its body laterally to move.

‘Snakes lift their ventral scales and pull themselves forward by sending a muscular travelling wave from head to tail.

‘Rectilinear locomotion is very efficient and especially useful for crawling within crevices — an invaluable benefit for search-and-rescue robots.’

According to Georgia Tech, Scalybot 2 can automatically change the angle of its scales when it encounters different terrains and slopes. This adjustment allows the robot to either fight or generate friction.

The two-link robot is controlled by a remote-controlled joystick and can move forwards and backwards using four motors.

Marvi unveiled the robot this month at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) annual meeting in Charleston, South Carolina.