Stickybot has Space Potential
It can't save you 15 percent on auto
insurance, but a gecko-like six-legged
robot designed by researchers at the
European Space Agency ( www.esa.int)
and Canada's Simon Fraser University
( www.sfu.ca) appears to have potential
as a hull-crawling repair technician on
A gecko derives its climbing abilities
from its feet which achieve stickiness
using a flock of tiny hairs (100 nm to
200 nm in diameter) that creates atomic
interactions with the surface. Somewhat
similarly, the Abigaille robot is equipped
with small "footpad terminators" that use
a dry adhesive to cling to vertical
surfaces. This feature was of particular
interest to the ESA folks, as other
methods of achieving adhesion are not
well-suited to space applications.
Materials like duct tape tend to
collect dust over time and lose their stickiness, plus they give off problematic fumes in vacuum conditions.
Velcro™is also unsuitable as it requires a mating surface. Tests of Abigaille's sticky stuff in space-like conditions
showed that it retains its adhesion even in a vacuum and throughout the applicable range of temperatures.
Because the bot's six legs each have four degrees of freedom, it is highly dexterous and may someday be
deployed for servicing satellites, as well as such mundane tasks as cleaning high-rise buildings.
Courtesy of Simon Fraser
School of Engineering
8 SERVO 03.2014
by Jeff and Jenn Eckert
Mechanical Cooter Seeks Shipwrecks
On the other hand, if you want a bot for exploring
shipwrecks, it seems prudent to pattern it after an aquatic
reptile as did Taavi Salumäe — an engineer at the Centre for
Biorobotics, Tallinn University of Technology ( www.ttu.ee).
Using four independently driven flippers, his turtle-inspired
U-CAT is highly maneuverable and can swim up and down
and move forward and backward, and make zero radius turns
as necessary. According to Salumäe, "Conventional
underwater robots use propellers for locomotion. Fin
propulsors of U-CAT can drive the robot in all directions
without disturbing water and beating up silt from the bottom
which would decrease visibility inside the shipwreck."
The little terrapin carries a video camera so researchers
can use its footage to reconstruct the underwater site later
on. Development of the U-CAT was sponsored by a European
Union organization called Archaeological Robot Systems for the World's Seas project,
torturously given the acronym ARROWS. The amount of funding was not specified, but it
was revealed that U-CAT has both size and cost advantages over conventional underwater
machines used in the oil and gas industry and the military.
Researchers Asko Ristolainen
and Taavi Salumäe watch as
the U-CAT swims in an