The field of robotics continues to get more impressive by the day, with one of the latest developments being a high-speed amphibious robot capable of swimming and running on top of the water. The robot developed by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) was inspired by cockroaches and lizards. Besides running on top of the water, it can also crawl on rugged terrain.
Termed the AmphiStar, it was presented at the IROS (International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems) by Dr. David Zarrouk. He is the director of Bioinspired and Medical Robotics Laboratory in BGU’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. Graduate student Avi Cohen also joined Zarrouk.
According to Zarrouk, “The AmphiSTAR uses a sprawling mechanism inspired by cockroaches, and it is designed to run on water at high speeds like a basilisk lizard. We envision that AmphiSTAR can be used for agricultural, search and rescue and excavation applications, where both crawling and swimming are required.”
The AmphiSTAR can fit into the palm of a hand, and it comes from a lab with experience developing these types of robots. It is equipped with wheels and four propellers underneath it, and the sprawl mechanism can be used to tilt the axes. When the robot is on the ground, the propellers act as wheels, and when the robot is over water, they act as fins. Those fins can propel AmphiSTAR over the water at high speeds of 1.5 m/s.
AmphiSTAR is also able to float thanks to twin air tanks and transition when hovering on water from high speeds to lower speeds. It can also transition between crawling and swimming either way.
The AmphiSTAR is on par with the original STAR robot when it comes to crawling over gravel, grass, and concrete, hitting speeds and maintaining them up to 3.6 m/s, or 3.3 mph.
“Our future research will focus on the scalability of the robot and on underwater swimming,” Zarrouk says.
NASA’s Amphibious Robot
Amphibious robots have been rising in popularity recently, with NASA releasing a space-exploring version last year. According to the researchers, the goal is to make the “flying amphibious robot” capable of rolling, flying, floating, and swimming as it explores space and planets.
The researchers at NASA described the robot as “a contraption that looks like a drone encased in an elongated hamster wheel,” capable of rolling and splitting into two pieces. After the contraption splits, “the two halves rise on small propellers, effectively becoming flying drones for aerial exploration.”
NASA’s amphibious robots are fascinating in their possibilities, with the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts research program hoping to deploy them on Saturn’s moon.
These are just a few of the exciting developments coming out of robotics, which will only continue to advance the capabilities of such technology. It is also another example of how researchers and roboticists turn to nature to develop current robots and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies.