Caltech researchers develop bipedal robot LEONARDO, which can walk, fly and even skate


In a stunning development, researchers from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have developed a bipedal robot named LEONARDO that seamlessly works on two types of locomotion i.e. walking and flying. According to Caltech's official report, this new technology will make even the most complex of movements extremely smooth. Moreover, the scientists believe that if successful, LEONARDO can be deployed for missions on alien planets like Mars or Saturn’s moon Titan.

Rsearchrs @Caltech built a bipedal #robot LEONARDO that combines walking wid flying to create a new locomotion which can walk a slackline, hop & ride a skateboard, th 1st robot to use multi-joint legs & propeller-based thrusters to achieve a fine degree of control ovr its balance

Specialities of LEONARDO

Short for LEgs ONboARD drOne, LEONARDO is the first robot that uses multi-joint legs and propeller-based thrusters for balance, as per Caltech. Moreover, the walking-cum-flying robot can even ride a skateboard apart from walking a slackline and hopping. The developers at Caltech's Center for Autonomous Systems and Technologies (CAST) said that they were inspired by nature for its invention as they wanted to understand and learn how birds are able to flap and hop at the same time while navigating telephone lines.

Giving a description of its features, Caltech revealed that LEO stands 2.5 feet tall and weighs 2.58 kg. Equipped with two legs having three actuated joints, the robot has four propeller thrusters that ensure that it maintains the center of mass while walking, just like in humans. As per the developers, LEO has excellent mastery in balancing due to the propellers that help it in maintaining the center of mass, which makes it easier for LEO to skateboard to walk a slackline. They said that the robot can seamlessly switch between walking or flying, depending on the terrain it is transversing and is also capable of performing unusual locomotion manoeuvres.

Uses of the robotic technology

Bipedal robots like LEONARDO are being considered extremely promising as they are able to tackle complex real-world terrains more easily by using human-like movements. Moreover, the scientists aim to deploy the same technology to provide aerial robots and other types of flying vehicles with leg joints. Talking specifically, the Caltech team wants to equip the future Mars rotorcraft with legged landing gear that will help in maintaining the balance and to avoid any mishap while landing in challenging conditions.

Challenges of the robot

Although the technology looks promising, the inventors have pointed out the challenges with the most significant one being energy consumption. As the robot works on propellers, it uses a considerable amount of energy for operating with proper balance. To tackle this, Caltech experts reported that they are working on improving the leg design that uses the minimum amount of propeller while walking but provides the same uncanny balance.

Besides, the robot also needs to learn how to make decisions on its own. For this, the developers plan to equip it with a drone landing control algorithm that will provide it with a better understanding of its surrounding.

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