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Scientists Create Primate-Inspired Leaping Robot that Could Help in Urban Disasters

Dec 06, 2016 11:50 PM EST

A team of engineers from UC Berkeley has built a tiny robot with the highest recorded robotic vertical jumping agility. The new technology could aid in rescue and search operations during disasters in urban areas.

According to a news release from UC Berkeley, the tiny robot, tagged as Salto, can leap three meters into the air and spring off walls. The inspiration behind this unique mechanism is the Senegal bush baby (Galago senegalensis), a small promate that could leap in between trees at a rate of 2.2 meters per second, Live Science reports.

Bush babies are able to jump at a higher altitude by positioning into a super low crouch before jumping, storing much needed energy in elastic tendons and then releasing it while jumping. The result is a leap that's 15 times more powerful than normal jumps powered by muscle strength alone.

The study, published in the journal Science Robotics, states that the tiny robot is 10 inches tall and weighs only 0.2 pounds. It has one leg but could jump to about 3.2 feet while in a vertical, standing position and can climb up to 5.7 feet per secon. The difference of Salto to other robots is its quick ability to jump continously without waitting for several minutes to rest.

“Developing a metric to easily measure vertical agility was key to Salto’s design because it allowed us to rank animals by their jumping agility and then identify a species for inspiration,” said Duncan Haldane, a robotics Ph.D. candidate at UC Berkeley.

The scientists built Salto with the aim of designing a robot that can help in search and rescue operations during emergencies, i.e., earthquakes, that's small enough not to further "disturb the rubble."

"Our goal was to have a search-and-rescue robot small enough to not disturb the rubble further, and move quickly across the many kinds of rubble produced by collapsed buildings. To do that, it has to be able to jump — and jump more adeptly — than prior robots," Haldane said.

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