This autonomous robot rolls to its destination and flies over obstacles

It can go into extremely tricky spaces and stop humans from putting their lives in danger.
Ameya Paleja
The rolling flying bot can be handy tool for inspection in remote areas
The rolling flying bot can be handy tool for inspection in remote areas

Revolute Robotics 

A student-founded startup, Revolute Robotics, from Arizona has built the Hybrid Mobility Robot (HMR) – a fully autonomous bot that can roll to its destination and even fly over obstacles in its path. If the concept sounds interesting, just wait till you see it in action. It's mesmerizing.

Autonomous bots come in all shapes and sizes. Some can fly, some use wheels, and some even walk on two legs. They are usually designed with a specific application in mind and equipped with tools to get it done. However, mixing modes of movement is a complex game and the startup seems to have cracked the puzzle quite well.

The rolling-flying bot

The idea behind developing the bot is to automate inspections in confined spaces. On oil rigs or in deep mine shafts, space is limited, and getting humans to inspect them carries high safety risks. Operations are halted and inspections can go on for weeks which adds to costs for the business.

Revolute Robotics' solution is an autonomous bot that can roll in any direction using a pair of gyroscopic gimbal rings. It can switch on its four propellers when it needs to fly over obstacles or simply reach an inaccessible zone during an inspection.

The setup consists of a camera or sensor that can be switched depending on the application and the entire assembly sits inside a lightweight exoskeleton that is strong enough to absorb shocks from falls or bounces on rough terrain. Additionally, it also covers the propellers so the bot can be put to work near other humans as well.

Applications of the bot

The primary mode of movement for the bot is the roll. It also conserves energy during an operation since the flying action drains the onboard battery five times faster. Nevertheless, the flying ability gives the bot an opportunity to escape from unexpected situations such as a fall from a high ledge.

The bot can also be deployed in search and rescue missions where time is of the essence and the efficiency of the operation is amplified by using a swarm instead of a single bot.

One could also see these bots being used for security purposes such as inspecting a suspicious item or patrolling a large perimeter and keeping humans out of harm's way. As with most bot technology, it could also be put to use by the military in contested environments for reconnaissance missions.

Revolute has turned to crowdfunding to raise money to manufacture its bot and get it ready for commercial deployment. Although the bots are pretty large in size as of now, they can definitely be shrunken down for civil applications like inspecting pipelines. So, it should hardly be a surprise if a utility company shows up with one of these in the future in a building near you.

With a fully autonomous operation, one could simply set the robot free and it will roll around using its gimbal rings till the mission objective is not complete but scurry back to you when it is.