We have seen a lot of biped robots capable of walking, with Boston Dynamics’ Atlas among the most impressive. There are also all kinds of drones these days. But a combination of robot and drone that walks and flies it is not so common. Some Caltech engineers have taken it upon themselves to make it real.
LEONARDO is the name given to this particular robot. The name, as is often the case with these types of inventions, is an abbreviation. Its full name is actually LEgs ONboARD drOne (something like “legs aboard a drone”). And it is that essentially we are in front of a drone with legs.
At the moment it is a proof of concept to see if this idea is viable. Engineers and companies from all over the world are looking for the most effective ways to provide mobility to robots. In some cases they are wheels, in other cases four legs, in other cases two and in even more particular cases jumping robots or this one that flies like a drone.
Two locomotive capabilities in a single robot
For this occasion the engineers say that they were inspired by nature, specifically birds, to find a more viable method of mobility. Birds have the peculiarity of easily switching between flying and walking. This intersection between the two activities is the one that the engineers have explored, allowing the robot to take flight when faced with difficult terrain or to use its thrusters when there are difficulties.
As a consequence, LEONARDO is a robot capable of bringing the best of both worlds. It has the stability of a robot on foot and has the agility of a drone to move around. It weighs just 2.58 kilograms (after all, it has to fly too) and is 75 centimeters tall. On top It has four propellers that serve to propel itself like a drone. On the other hand, it has two very thin legs that allow it to stay upright and balanced.
As we can see in the images of the prototype, it is able to walk without difficulties and also avoid obstacles such as stairs simply by taking flight. But it is even more interesting when we see him use a skate stop skating or when balancing on the tightrope thanks to the use of the propellers.
There is much to improve here, of course, but it is an important step in a new branch for locomotor development of robots. One of the aspects that will have to be improved is the autonomy that the robot has or, for example, the capabilities it has to scale to a greater size and weight. Although for now, with just those little flights out of nowhere, it’s pretty unsettling.
Via | Futurism
More information | Caltech and ScienceRobotics