A robotic cockroach has been developed that can launch a winged robotic bird from its back, according to a press release from UC Berkeley.
Multi-modal robots have been all the rage in recent years, combining different modes of locomotion to increase efficiencies and ranges. Typically this entails a two-step design where an airborne robot can drop a ground robot in hard-to-reach places. This process usually forms around combining two robots with different capabilities, but engineers at the University of California at Berkeley have been trying to make the process work even better.
According to IEEE, the team at Berkeley has just unleashed their VelociRoACH robot, drawing inspiration from the cockroach’s ability to crawl swiftly over rugged terrain. The VelociRoACH works in tandem with the H2Bird, creating the ultimate land-to-air miniature robot team. The ground-based robot serves as an aircraft carrier for the H2Bird, giving it a running start before takeoff.
The H2Bird also helps out the VelociRoACH. The tiny robot, weighing in at just above 13 grams, flaps its wings at a frequency of 5 Hz to help reduce the load on the back of the VelociRoACH. This allows the duo to boost the overall ground running speed by 12 percent.
According to the Berkeley press release, the robot pair would be useful in a situation where they needed to reach a point that could not be accessed by just one or the other. Cooperative locomotion has been found to be much more energy efficient than independent methods of motion, and has far-reaching applications in the defense and scientific research fields.
Launching the H2Bird from the back of a VelociRoACH still requires a remote control, and researchers say their next step is to make the launch function completely autonomous.
You can watch a video of the robotic duo in action here: