A robot that stores its energy in elastic muscles can jump up to 30 meters high. His designer wants to take it to space, to travel bouncing over the moon and other planets.
It’s spring and that means lots of jumping lambs on the meadow. Or robots, if it’s up to researcher Elliot Hawkes of the University of California, Santa Barbara. In the science magazine Nature he presents a jumping robot with thin spider legs that can reach a height of thirty meters. Interesting to investigate how jumping actually works and as a possible lunar scientist, the robotist believes.
The world records in high jump have been set for decades: 2.45 meters for Javier Sotomeyer in 1993 and 2.09 meters for Stefka Kostadinova in 1987. The new jumping robot from Hawkes and colleagues can easily reach ten times as high. The video below shows him even jumping up a cliff, straightening up and jumping again. How?
In their Naturearticle, Hawkes and colleagues elaborate on the limiting factors for jumping enthusiasts, such as the amount of jumping energy per. kilogram weight, or how long it takes to push off. They then designed a robot that scores as high as possible on all of these factors. They came with a lightweight design of 30 grams and a length of 30 centimeters with a relatively small engine.
Can a new Sotomeyer cheat Hawkes’ jumping robot? Unfortunately not, the researcher calculates. The spring robot uses a garbage motor that stores energy at each stroke of a spring locked with a bolt. For example, the robot can build up energy until the lock is released, and he makes a giant leap where a human high jumper must retrieve all the energy from a muscle movement.
Without payload, Hawkes’ robot accelerates to more than 100 kilometers per hour in 0.009 seconds during launch. According to the researcher, the best live jumpers release ten times less energy, just like existing robots like those from Boston Dynamics.
“We have, of course, completely optimized our design for jumping power,” the researcher admits. For example, the foot he eases is as light as possible, and the spider-like legs are folded under the jump so that the robot shoots through the air like a streamlined spear. According to the robotician, the design is already close to the limit of what is possible with existing materials.
Cool pictures, but what good is a mechanical spring spider that reaches a height of thirty meters? Hawkes and co-workers designed their robot mainly to show that their analysis of jumping power is correct, but they would like to philosophize about applications.
Scientists believe that their jumping robot has the potential to explore difficult terrain on Earth, the moon or even other planets. If a wagon cannot get through rocks and crevices, and a drone does not have fuel to stay in the air indefinitely, you can always jump a mechanically leaping spider across the landscape to map it with a lightweight camera.
In the lower gravity of the moon, Hawke’s and colleagues’ robot can jump up to one hundred and twenty-five meters high and a half kilometers long. Jumping on the moon makes you even more meters, also thought space expert H. Seifert: In 1967, he published a design for a ‘moon pogo stick’, a vehicle that allows astronauts to move across the moon with large jumps. Whether you know where you land or not is questionable: human astronauts will happily stick to a lunar chariot instead of jumping over the satellite in seven-mile boots.
Sources: Nature, Journal of Spacecraft
Photo: Elliot W. Hawkes