Research highlight

Engineering: Outjumping the highest jumping robots

Nature

April 28, 2022

A robot that is capable of jumping over 30 metres high, more than 100 times its own height, is reported in a Nature paper. The robot outperforms previously reported engineered jumpers and the best biological jumpers. The findings could change the way we use jumping robots, and demonstrate a new level of performance for artificially engineered jumping.

For decades, engineers have designed jumping machines that often mimicked or took inspiration from biology. The maximum jumping height of animals is limited by the work their muscles can produce in a single stroke. By contrast, the jump height of an engineered device can be far greater if it uses a ratcheted or rotary motor that can store energy during repeated strokes or rotations.

Elliot Hawkes and colleagues designed and created a specialized artificially engineered robot, around 30 centimetres tall and weighing 30 grams, capable of jumping 32.9 metres high. It consists of a rotary motor to multiply the work, and specially selected springs and rubber bands that allow the system to store energy. The authors say that their findings change the implications of jumping as a means of locomotion, changing how and where jumping could be used. On Earth, jumping robots could overcome obstacles previously only navigated by flying robots to collect images of the ground below, and if robots were to jump on the Moon, where surface gravity is weaker, they could potentially reach heights of 125 metres, traversing distances of around half a kilometre in a single leap, which could be useful for exploratory investigations of the terrain.

doi: 10.1038/s41586-022-04606-3

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