Scientists develop robot capable of walking and flying

*This text was written by a columnist from TechWorld; learn more at the end.

Advances in science are expected and acclaimed around the world. The creation of new robots is often remembered when thinking about the future, and the field fascinates many scientists. Recently, scientists Kyunam Kim, Patrick Spieler, Elena-Sorina Lupo, Alireza Ramezani and Soon-Jo Chung presented a project for a robotic platform of multimodal locomotion called Leonardo.

What is different about the novelty is the fact that, while many mobile robots specialize in land or air locomotion, “Leo” bridges the gap between two different locomotion regimes: flying and walking using synchronized control of distributed electric propulsion and a pair of multi-joint legs.

Therefore, the robot performs complex maneuvers that require a delicate balance, such as walking on a slackline and riding a skateboard, which are a challenge for existing biped robots. Leonardo also demonstrates agile walking movements, intertwined with flight maneuvers to overcome obstacles using synchronized control of propellers and leg joints. The mechanical design and synchronized control strategy achieve a unique multimodal locomotion capability that can enable robotic missions and operations that would be difficult for single-mode locomotion robots.

Biped robots, in particular, have attracted a great deal of attention not only because of their human-like body shapes, but also because they can perform rugged and versatile walking, jogging, and jumping over uneven terrain. Some advanced humanoid robots can even perform high-level tasks like manipulating objects, climbing stairs, or driving a vehicle. However, the ultimate goal of bipedal robotics is to achieve human-like stability and robustness in your walking and running maneuvers over challenging terrain or in a complex indoor environment.

Leo weighs 2.58 kg and has a total height of 75 cm when walking. The robot consists of three main subsystems, a torso, a propeller propulsion system and two legs with pointed feet. Furthermore, Leonardo can operate completely autonomously with his on-board computers and sensor array. The nominal walking speed is 20 cm/s, and your overall ground speed can be increased substantially using intermittent close-to-ground flight. The project represents a major advance for robotics worldwide and appears to be the first step towards a much more technological future.

Fabiano de Abreu Rodrigues, columnist of TechWorld, holds a doctorate and master’s degree in Health Sciences in the areas of Neuroscience and Psychology, with specialization in Electrical Properties of Neurons (Harvard), programming in Python at USP and in Artificial Intelligence at IBM. He is a member of Mensa International, the association of the smartest people in the world, the Portuguese and Brazilian Society of Neuroscience and the European Federation of Neuroscience. He is director of the Center for Research and Analysis Heraclitus (CPAH), IPI Intel Technology and considered one of the leading national scientists for studies of intelligence and high IQ.

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