The majority of all-terrain, search-and-rescue robots require large amounts of energy and are prone to overheating. Georgia Tech researchers have designed a new machine by studying the locomotion of a certain type of flexible, efficient animal. “By using their scales to control frictional properties, snakes are able to move large distances while exerting very little energy,” said Hamid Marvi, a Mechanical Engineering Ph.D. candidate at Georgia Tech. While studying and videotaping the movements of 20 different species at Zoo Atlanta, Marvi developed Scalybot 2, a robot that replicates rectilinear locomotion of snakes.

“During rectilinear locomotion, a snake doesn’t have to bend its body laterally to move,” explained Marvi. “Snakes lift their ventral scales and pull themselves forward by sending a muscular traveling wave from head to tail. Rectilinear locomotion is very efficient and is especially useful for crawling within crevices, an invaluable benefit for search-and-rescue robots.” Scalybot 2 can automatically change the angle of its scales when it encounters different terrains and slopes. This adjustment allows the robot to either fight or generate friction. The two-link robot is controlled by a remote-controlled joystick and can move forward and backward using four motors.

Marvi’s advisor is David Hu, an assistant professor in the Schools of Mechanical Engineering and Biology. Hu and his research team are primarily focused on animal locomotion. They’ve studied how dogs and other animals shake water off their bodies and how mosquitos fly through rainstorms. Last summer, the team developed Scalybot 1 - a two-link climbing robot that replicates concertina locomotion. The push-and-pull, accordion-style movement features alternating scale activity

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