Researchers at Caltech have built a bipedal robot

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Researchers at Caltech have built a bipedal robot that combines walking with flying to create a new type of locomotion. Part walking robot, part flying drone, the newly-developed LEONARDO (short for LEgs ONboARD drOne, or LEO for short) can walk a slackline, hop, and even ride a skateboard, says Caltech.

Developed by a team at the Center for Autonomous Systems and Technologies (CAST), LEO is the first robot that uses multi-joint legs and propeller-based thrusters to achieve a fine degree of control over its balance, according to Caltech.

“We drew inspiration from nature. Think about the way birds are able to flap and hop to navigate telephone lines,” says Soon-Jo Chung, corresponding author and Bren Professor of Aerospace and Control and Dynamical Systems. “A complex yet intriguing behavior happens as birds move between walking and flying. We wanted to understand and learn from that.”

“Robots with a multimodal locomotion ability are able to move through challenging environments more efficiently than traditional robots by appropriately switching between their available means of movement. In particular, LEO aims to bridge the gap between the two disparate domains of aerial and bipedal locomotion that are not typically intertwined in existing robotic systems,” says Kyunam Kim, postdoctoral researcher at Caltech.

LEO stands 2.5 feet tall and is equipped with two legs that have three actuated joints, along with four propeller thrusters mounted at an angle at the robot’s shoulders.

[Image courtesy: Caltech]