Robotics, Automation & Control

Access our comprehensive library of technical briefs on robotics, automation & control, from engineering experts at NASA and government, university, and commercial laboratories.

Briefs : Motion Control
Hybrid Robot Flies, Creeps, and Leaps Off Buildings
Hybrid Robot Flies, Creeps, and Leaps Off Buildings

There is great potential in using both drones and ground-based robots for situations like disaster response, but generally these platforms either fly or creep along the ground. The flying...

Hybrid Robot Flies, Creeps, and Leaps Off Buildings
Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
System Provides “Electric Eyesight” for Autonomous Vehicles
System Provides “Electric Eyesight” for Autonomous Vehicles

Autonomous vehicles relying on light-based image sensors often struggle to see through blinding conditions such as fog. Sub-terahertz wavelengths, which are between microwave...

System Provides “Electric Eyesight” for Autonomous Vehicles
Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Lunar Surface Manipulation System
Lunar Surface Manipulation System

NASA's Langley Research Center offers a novel lifting and precision positioning device with hybrid functional characteristics of both crane-type lifting devices and robotic manipulators. The design of the...

Lunar Surface Manipulation System
Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Deployable Emergency Shutoff Device Blocks High-Velocity Fluid Flows

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center has developed a device and method for blocking the flow of fluid from an open pipe. The device plugs, controls, and meters the flow of gases and liquids. Anchored with friction fittings, spikes, or explosively activated fasteners, the device...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Wearable Liquid Unit Harvests Energy
Wearable Liquid Unit Harvests Energy

Researchers have created wearable technology to convert mechanical energy into electrical energy. It presents a step toward the practical realization of self-powered, human-integrated technologies.

Wearable Liquid Unit Harvests Energy
Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Face-Tracking Robot
Face-Tracking Robot

A robot is being developed that tracks facial movements to perform human tasks. The robot resembles large, squiggly arms holding tiny cameras. Sitting in a rolling office chair across from one of the arms, the robot's...

Face-Tracking Robot
Briefs : Test & Measurement
Safety Analysis: The Key to a Single-Pass ISO26262 Random Fault Workflow
Safety Analysis: The Key to a Single-Pass ISO26262 Random Fault Workflow

Advanced driver-assistance systems and autonomous drive technologies increase the complexity of automotive integrated circuits (ICs), making it harder to ensure that...

Safety Analysis: The Key to a Single-Pass ISO26262 Random Fault Workflow
Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Snake-Inspired Robot
Snake-Inspired Robot

Researchers have developed a new and improved snake-inspired soft robot that is faster and more precise than its predecessor.

Snake-Inspired Robot
Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Ultra-Low-Power Chips Enhance Performance of Small Robots
Ultra-Low-Power Chips Enhance Performance of Small Robots

An ultra-low-power hybrid chip inspired by the brain could help give palm-sized robots the ability to collaborate and learn from their experiences. Combined with new generations of...

Ultra-Low-Power Chips Enhance Performance of Small Robots
Briefs : Software
Model Gives Robots a Better Feel for Object Manipulation
Model Gives Robots a Better Feel for Object Manipulation

A new learning system improves a robot’s ability to mold materials into target shapes and make predictions about interacting with solid objects and liquids. The system, known as a...

Model Gives Robots a Better Feel for Object Manipulation
Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Stretchable, Rubbery Semiconductors
Stretchable, Rubbery Semiconductors

Researchers have created stretchable, rubbery semiconductors including rubbery integrated electronics, logic circuits, and arrayed sensory skins fully based on rubber materials. The semiconductors have...

Stretchable, Rubbery Semiconductors
Briefs : Materials
Transparent, Self-Healing Electronic Skin

Scientists have taken inspiration from underwater invertebrates like jellyfish to create an electronic skin with similar functionality. Like a jellyfish, the electronic skin is transparent, stretchable, touch-sensitive, and self-healing in aquatic environments.

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Synthesizing Renewable Oils for Use in Lubricants
Synthesizing Renewable Oils for Use in Lubricants

Industrial machinery, agricultural equipment, transportation vessels, and home applications depend on lubricants; however, they leave a heavy environmental footprint. Common lubricants, oils,...

Synthesizing Renewable Oils for Use in Lubricants
Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Multimaterial 3D Printing Used to Develop Fast-Response, Stiffness-Tunable, Soft Actuator
Multimaterial 3D Printing Used to Develop Fast-Response, Stiffness-Tunable, Soft Actuator

Fast-response, stiffness-tunable (FRST) soft actuators — or movable machine elements — were developed that could be used in soft robots.

Multimaterial 3D Printing Used to Develop Fast-Response, Stiffness-Tunable, Soft Actuator
Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Smart Microrobots Adapt to Surroundings
Smart Microrobots Adapt to Surroundings

Researchers, drawing inspiration from bacteria, have designed smart, bio-compatible microrobots that are highly flexible. Because these devices are able to swim through fluids and modify their shape...

Smart Microrobots Adapt to Surroundings
Briefs : Aerospace
Precision Low-Speed Motor Controller

Innovators at NASA Johnson Space Center have developed a method for controlling precise motion of a brushless DC (BLDC) motor using relatively inexpensive components. Precision motors are usually quite expensive and inefficient when operating at slow speeds. Current motors are only capable of operating at...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Walking Robot Moves Without GPS
Walking Robot Moves Without GPS

Ants are able to use polarized light and ultraviolet radiation to locate themselves in space. AntBot mimics this ability to explore its environment randomly and go home automatically, without GPS or...

Walking Robot Moves Without GPS
Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Tiny Robots Grow Bio-inspired Shapes
Tiny Robots Grow Bio-inspired Shapes

Hundreds of small robots can work in a team to create biology-inspired shapes without an underlying master plan, purely based on local communication and movement. To achieve this, the biological...

Tiny Robots Grow Bio-inspired Shapes
Briefs : Imaging
Artificial Intelligence Device Identifies Objects at the Speed of Light
Artificial Intelligence Device Identifies Objects at the Speed of Light

Numerous devices in everyday life use computerized cameras to identify objects — think of automated teller machines that can “read” handwritten dollar amounts when...

Artificial Intelligence Device Identifies Objects at the Speed of Light
Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Designing Self-Propelled, Chemically Active Sheets
Designing Self-Propelled, Chemically Active Sheets

Researchers have created a two-dimensional, shape-changing sheet that moves autonomously in a reactant-filled fluid. The integrated system utilizes a chemical reaction to activate the fluid...

Designing Self-Propelled, Chemically Active Sheets
Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Micro-Robot Climbs on Vertical and Upside-Down Conductive Surfaces
Micro-Robot Climbs on Vertical and Upside-Down Conductive Surfaces

Jet engines can have up to 25,000 individual parts, making regular maintenance a tedious task that can take more than a month per engine. Many components are located deep...

Micro-Robot Climbs on Vertical and Upside-Down Conductive Surfaces
Briefs : Medical
Foot Pedal Controller
Foot Pedal Controller

A novel foot-pedal-operated system and device were developed to control translational and rotational movement of an object in three-dimensional (3D) space. The Foot Pedal Controller system enables operators to control...

Foot Pedal Controller
Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Gateway Integrates Wireless Sensors with Existing Aircraft Systems
Gateway Integrates Wireless Sensors with Existing Aircraft Systems

In traditional hardwired avionics systems, sensor integration requires installation of literally tons of physical cable that significantly increases vehicle weight and the...

Gateway Integrates Wireless Sensors with Existing Aircraft Systems
Briefs : Imaging
Method and Means to Analyze Thermographic Data Acquired During Automated Fiber Placement
Method and Means to Analyze Thermographic Data Acquired During Automated Fiber Placement

Automated Fiber Placement (AFP) machines can be susceptible to tow-tape defects such as gaps and overlaps. These can reduce strength between 7% and 32%....

Method and Means to Analyze Thermographic Data Acquired During Automated Fiber Placement
Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Shape-Shifting Material Morphs Using Heat and Light
Shape-Shifting Material Morphs Using Heat and Light

A controllable material was developed that can transform into complex, pre-programmed shapes via light and temperature stimuli, allowing it to morph into a different shape before fully...

Shape-Shifting Material Morphs Using Heat and Light
Briefs : Medical
Soft Robotic “Sleeve” Fits Around the Heart to Help it Beat
Soft Robotic “Sleeve” Fits Around the Heart to Help it Beat

Researchers have developed a customizable soft robot that fits around a heart and helps it beat, potentially opening new treatment options for people suffering from heart...

Soft Robotic “Sleeve” Fits Around the Heart to Help it Beat
Briefs : Medical
Magnetic, 3D-Printed, Moving Structures
Magnetic, 3D-Printed, Moving Structures

Soft, 3D-printed structures have been created whose movements can be controlled with a wave of a magnet, much like marionettes without the strings. The structures that can be magnetically manipulated...

Magnetic, 3D-Printed, Moving Structures
Briefs : Aerospace
Large-Scale Robotic Inkjet Printing System
Large-Scale Robotic Inkjet Printing System

Painting of surfaces having numerous facets and/or curved surfaces is a time-consuming process that requires the application of several coats (layers) of paint. Such surfaces are often found on...

Large-Scale Robotic Inkjet Printing System
Briefs : Transportation
Compound-Lens Camera for Industry and Smartphones
Compound-Lens Camera for Industry and Smartphones

A process has been developed that enables the production of a 2-mm flat camera. The lens is partitioned into 135 tiny facets, similar to the eyes of an insect. The facetVISION camera is...

Compound-Lens Camera for Industry and Smartphones
Briefs : Medical
High-Performance Cageless Bearings with Minimal Frictional Loss
High-Performance Cageless Bearings with Minimal Frictional Loss

The global bearings market is expected to grow significantly due to increasing commercial and industrial machinery and manufacturing activity. Bearings are used in virtually...

High-Performance Cageless Bearings with Minimal Frictional Loss