• Science Recorder: Headless robo-cat could be the future of search and rescue

    Science Recorder: Headless robo-cat could be the future of search and rescue

    As researchers proved last week, cheetahs are not only capable of attaining great speeds, but possess an agility derived from their ability to accelerate and decelerate on a dime. So it’s only natural that Swiss scientists designed a robot intended for search and rescue missions after such a creature. Modeled after a house cat, the “cheetah-cub robot” is a four-legged metallic critter that simulates a cat’s dynamic stride.

    Published in the International Journal of Robotics Research, the prototype robot was developed by Ecole Polytechnique Federale deLausanne EPFL’s Biorobotics Laboratory (Biorob), Switzerland.

    The machine’s strength resides in the design of its legs. Researchers developed a new model based on the meticulous observation and faithful reproduction of the feline leg. In reproducing this feline morphology, the robot has the same advantages as its model: a marked running ability and elasticity in the just the right spots to ensure stability. Thus the robot is naturally more autonomous.

    There are three segments on each leg, with proportions identical to those of a cat. Springs reproduce the motion of tendons, while actuator small motors that convert energy into movement serve as the muscles.

    Living up to its name, the robot is the fastest in its category in normalised speed for small quadruped robots under 30kg. In testing it demonstrated the ability to run almost seven times its body length in just one second.

    Although not as agile as a real cat, the robot still exhibited excellent auto-stabilisation characteristics while running at full speed through a course with different obstacles and disturbances.

    Compared to other robots, the cheetah-cub is extremely light, compact, and robust and, best of all, can easily be assembled from inexpensive, readily available materials.

    The purpose of this display is to encourage research in biomechanics, particularly when considering the level of detail that went into the leg design to improve speed and agility. Robots developed from this concept would eventually be used in search and rescue missions or for exploration.

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