Robot Grasshopper

March 31, 2016 | 12:00
Robot Grasshopper ©
Robot Grasshopper ©
At a time when flying drones are everywhere, the leaps that grasshoppers make to move around are not really the kind of somersaults that we’d expect from a robot. And yet this work done at the University of Tel Aviv is worthy of attention: this robot-grasshopper, only 13 cm long and weighing 23g can jump more than 3 m – 25 times its own length.

In fact, it only resembles a grasshopper from a distance; the initial idea was to imitate the jumping mechanism of this insect in storing a large amount of energy in the bent legs and freeing it quickly to effect a jump to a considerable height. According to the Israeli researchers, twice as much as similar robots until now. The horizontal movement is less impressive, but all the same more than a meter.

This ingenious example of biological inspiration for designing new types of robots uses rods of carbon fibre, with torsion springs of steel wire forming the joints. The ABS plastic body of the remote controlled robot grasshopper was made by 3D printing.

According to the researchers, the potential of such tiny and ultra-light robots is particularly suited to reconnaissance of rough terrain and notably looking for people. An improvement being studied is the addition of fins in order to stabilize the gliding flight of the robot and assure a soft landing.

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