Friday, January 20, 2012
Snakes Improve Search-and-Rescue Robots
Designing an all-terrain robot for search-and-rescue missions is an arduous task for scientists. The machine must be flexible enough to move over uneven surfaces, yet not so big that it’s restricted from tight spaces. It might also be required to climb slopes of varying inclines.
Existing robots can do many of these things, but the majority require large amounts of energy and are prone to overheating. Georgia Tech researchers have designed a new machine by studying the locomotion of a certain type of flexible, efficient animal.
“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 Ph.D. candidate at Georgia Tech.
While studying and videotaping the movements of 20 different species at Zoo Atlanta, Marvi developed Scalybot 2, a robot that replicates rectilinear locomotion of snakes. He unveiled the robot this month at the Society for Integrative & Comparative Biology (SICB) annual meeting in Charleston, S.C.
“During rectilinear locomotion, a snake doesn’t have to bend its body laterally to move,” explained Marvi. “Snakes lift their ventral scales and pull themselves forward by sending a muscular traveling wave from head to tail. Rectilinear locomotion is very efficient and is especially useful for crawling within crevices, an invaluable benefit for search-and-rescue robots.”