Could “hop and roll” be the best way to explore new worlds? NREC researchers are designing spherical robots that combine hopping and rolling to move around in rugged environments. The Robotic All-Terrain Surveyors (RATS) could be used in interplanetary science missions (like exploring low-gravity planets such as Mars) or terrestrial missions in rough terrain (like scouting and acting as communications relays). RATS roll and hop by pushing off the ground with their symmetric legs. Their spherical shape lets them tumble and bounce freely over rocks, holes and other obstacles. Precise leg coordination gives RATS very fine movement control. So far, NREC researchers have built two prototypes – a spherical RATS with 12 servo-activated legs and a planar RATS with 5 piston-activated legs. They’re being used to evaluate control systems and improve the basic RATS design. RATS development is sponsored by Boeing.
Simulation of RATS exploring a rugged environment
RATS spherical design lets it roll and hop freely.
Spherical prototype of RATS with 12servo- activated legs
Planar prototype of RATS with 5 pneumatic legs
Photos and pictures courtesy of: www.nrec.ri.cmu.edu