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Flying Walking Robot Turns Wings Into Legs

Rotating wings allow this UAV to scamper along the ground

1 min read
Flying Walking Robot Turns Wings Into Legs

Here's a new robotics term for you to memorize: multi-modal locomotion. It means locomoting in multi-modes, and that just means getting around in more than one different way. Most animals are multi-modal: they can walk and swim, or walk and fly. This isn't a coincidence, because there are clear advantages to being able to do move multi-modally, with capability and efficiency coming out near the top of the list. The disadvantage is that generally, you need a substantial amount of extra hardware for each mode of locomotion, but EPFL has managed to create a UAV that can use its wings to walk.

This robot takes advantage of "adaptive morphology," where you've got one structure (the wings, in this case) that can be used for multiple locomotion modes. In a search and rescue situation, you might use a capability like this to fly around and get a good overview of an area, and then land and crawl around under some bushes if you spot something interesting. Also, small UAVs tend to land, um, badly, and being able to move around (even just a little bit) vastly improves the potential for returning to the air successfully.

It's probably not possible to design wings that have much structural commonality with particularly efficient legs, but that's not a problem when you can just invent some wings that change their shape, which looks to be where this research is going next:

We aim to make adaptive deployable wings for improving the mobility of a flying robot; their shape could be adaptively modified to augment efficiency of forward flight, hover flight, and displacement on the ground. For example, wings could be fully deployed for flying outdoors and reduced for hover flight and ground modes.

[ EPFL ]

Thanks Ludovic!

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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