Falling Robot Gecko Rights Itself in Mid-Air

We've seen robot geckos climbing walls before. Now researchers are adding a twist -- literally. If this bio-inspired bot falls, rather than crashing into pieces, it can right itself mid-air and land on its feet.

The UC Berkeley researchers, led by graduate student Ardian Jusufi, describe their results in a paper published today in a special edition of the Institute of Physics's Bioinspiration & Biomimetics. The movie shows how a gecko uses its tail to right and turn itself mid-air and fall on its feet. The researchers studied how a real gecko does the trick, modeled the maneuver on a computer, and built a robot gecko that can do the same.

We're seeing more and more bio-inspired robots lately, and that looks like a promising trend in robotics.

"Because biologists and engineers are typically trained quite differently, there is a gap between the understanding of natural flight of biologists and the engineer's expertise in designing vehicles that function well," the special edition's editor David Lentink from Wageningen University, in the Netherlands, writes in an accompanying editorial. "In the middle however is a few pioneering engineers who are able to bridge both fields."

Other articles describe how scientists are trying to mimic the natural abilities of humming birds, cruising seagulls, flapping insects, and floating maple seeds to improve the design of air vehicles.

But the robot I really want to see? The amazing gliding snake!

See more videos below, including one from Jake Socha and his team at Virginia Tech showing the mystifying skills of flying snakes, which direct their flight mid-air by slithering.

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