SPIDAR: A groundbreaking spider-like robot is ready to change robotics

Thrusters may provide propulsion in any direction and can "roll" around the limb.
Nergis Firtina

Moju Zhao 

Meet the University of Tokyo's SPIDAR, the backronym of "SPherIcally vectorable and Distributed rotors assisted Air-ground amphibious quadruped Robot," with multimodal locomotion capability.

The 33-pound robot SPIDAR employs servos on its movable limbs that are lightweight but insufficiently powerful to allow it to stand by itself. This keeps it light enough to fly without a jet engine, but it also means that the spider must maintain a continual bounce to maintain its upright position.

How does it work?

As reported by IEEE Spectrum, an attached spherically vectorable dual thruster is part of each SPIDAR limb section. These thrusters may provide thrust in any direction and can "roll" around the limb and rotate orthogonally to it. The joints currently contain a few tiny servos to activate them somewhat, but this is primarily done to streamline the system's dynamics so that everything can operate onboard.

The robot's mobility depends mainly on the thruster system because the servos cannot maintain the weight. Eight links and 16 joints make up the 33-pound SPIDAR, which has eight batteries scattered across the links. The robot can walk for more than twice as long as it can fly, for a total flight time of nine minutes.

Similar robots have been done before

In response to a "labor crisis" in Japan, a Japanese robotics company developed spider-like robots to sterilize the drainage system of the nation. Robotic solutions provider Tmusk claims that SPD1, a spider-like robot that collaborates with other robots, is an effective solution to chronic labor scarcity and sewage inspection tasks.

Now measuring 8.3 x 9.8 x 11 inches (21 x 25 x 28 centimeters) and weighing about 7.7 pounds (3.5 kilograms), the device is designed to pass into pipelines that are too narrow for humans to examine.

Study abstract:

Multimodal locomotion capability is an emerging topic in robotics field, and various novel mobile robots have been developed to enable the maneuvering in both terrestrial and aerial domains. Among these hybrid robots, several state-of-the-art bipedal \robots enable the complex walking motion which is interlaced with flying. These robots are also desired to have the manipulation ability; however, it is difficult for the current forms to keep stability with the joint motion in midair due to the central\ized rotor arrangement. Therefore, in this work, we develop a novel air-ground amphibious quadruped robot called SPIDAR which is assisted by spherically vectorable rotors distributed in each link to enable both walking motion and transformable flight. F\irst, we present a unique mechanical design for quadruped robot that enables terrestrial and aerial locomotion. We then reveal the modeling method for this hybrid robot platform, and further develop an integrated control strategy for both walking and fl\ying with joint motion. Finally, we demonstrate the feasibility of the proposed hybrid quadruped robot by performing a seamless motion that involves static walking and subsequent flight. To the best of our knowledge, this work is the first to achieve a \quadruped robot with multimodal locomotion capability, which also shows the potential of manipulation in multiple domains.

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