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.

A novel approach was developed to improve communications range and allow for covert behavior using a team of robots for future multi-domain operations. Specifically, researchers...

A perception system for soft robots was developed that is inspired by the way humans process information about their own bodies in space and in relation to other objects and people. The system includes a...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Flying Robot Mimics Rapid Insect Flight

Flying animals both power and control flight by flapping their wings. This enables small natural flyers such as insects to hover close to a flower but also to rapidly escape danger. Animal flight has...

Briefs: Robotics, Automation & Control
Robots Track Moving Objects with Sub-Centimeter Accuracy

A system was developed that uses radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags to help robots target moving objects with unprecedented speed and accuracy. The system could enable greater...

Researchers have developed a fiber that combines the elasticity of rubber with the strength of a metal, resulting in a tougher material. The fibers consist of a gallium metal core...

Briefs: Robotics, Automation & Control
Smart Electronic Skin for Robots and Prosthetics

Humans use the sense of touch to accomplish almost every daily task such as picking up a cup of coffee or shaking someone’s hand. Without it, humans can even lose their sense of balance when walking. Similarly, robots need to have a sense of touch in order to interact better with humans but...

Briefs: Sensors/Data Acquisition
Simulating Softness for Haptic Interfaces

Researchers have developed a formula that enables them to recreate different levels of perceived softness. Based on the results from their experiments, they created equations that can calculate how...

UCLA engineers have made major improvements on their design of an optical neural network — a device inspired by how the human brain works — that can identify objects or process...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
3D-Printed Liquid Lab-on-a-Chip

Researchers have 3D-printed an all-liquid device that, with the click of a button, can be repeatedly reconfigured on demand to serve a wide range of applications from making battery materials to screening drug...

A set of five tiny fundamental parts can be assembled into a wide variety of functional devices including a tiny “walking” motor that can move back and forth across a surface or...

Between walking and running, human gaits can cover a wide range of speeds; for example, at low speeds, the metabolic rate of walking is lower than that of running in a slow jog....

A radically new kind of airplane wing, assembled from hundreds of tiny identical pieces, can change shape to control the plane’s flight, and could provide a significant boost in...

Briefs: Defense
Technique Locates Robots and Humans in GPS-Challenged Environments

An algorithm enables localization of humans and robots in areas where GPS is unavailable. The Army needs to be able to localize agents operating in physically complex, unknown, and infrastructure-poor environments. This capability is critical to help find dismounted soldiers and...

Briefs: Motion Control
Smartphone App Programs Robots

A smartphone app was developed that allows a user to easily program any robot to perform a mundane activity such as picking up parts from one area and delivering them to another. The app, called VRa, uses...

A high-sensitivity and low-noise MEMS accelerometer was developed using multi-layer metal structures composed of multiple metal layers. The accelerometer achieves 1 μG level resolution that has...

Briefs: Motion Control
Miniature Stretchable Pump

Soft robots have a distinct advantage over rigid robots: they can adapt to complex environments, handle fragile objects, and interact safely with humans. Made from silicone, rubber, or other stretchable polymers,...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Automated System Generates Robotic Parts

An automated system designs and 3D-prints complex robotic parts that are optimized according to an enormous number of specifications. The system fabricates actuators — devices that mechanically...

Robotics has traditionally focused on industrial applications in which robots require strength and precision to carry out repetitive tasks. These robots flourish in highly...

Briefs: Robotics, Automation & Control
Software Enables Robots to Self-Right After Overturning

The Advanced Explosive Ordnance Disposal Robotic System (AEODRS) features a modular open systems architecture that enables the robot to be self-righting after a fall. The self-righting...

Briefs: Robotics, Automation & Control
Soft, Multi-Functional Robots

In the future, soft, animal-inspired robots may be safely deployed in difficult-to-access environments in which rigid robots cannot currently be used such as inside the human body or in spaces that are too...

Microrobots that can deliver drugs to specific spots inside the body while being monitored and controlled from outside the body have been developed that also can treat tumors in the...

Briefs: Manufacturing & Prototyping
3D-Printed Soft Mesh Robots

Researchers have created 3D-printed flexible mesh structures that can be controlled with applied magnetic fields while floating on water. The structures can grab small objects and carry water droplets, giving them...

Briefs: Sensors/Data Acquisition
Robot “Eye” Provides 360° Field of View

The production of precision products depends on robot control systems knowing the location of the adhesive bonding head or welding head to the nearest millimeter at all times. This means the robot...

While different approaches have been used to create artificial muscles — including hydraulic systems, servomotors, shape-memory metals, and polymers that respond to stimuli — they all have limitations such...

Briefs: Sensors/Data Acquisition
Spotting Objects Amid Clutter

A new MIT-developed technique enables robots to quickly identify objects hidden in a three-dimensional cloud of data, reminiscent of how some people can make sense of a densely patterned “Magic Eye” image if...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
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...

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...

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...

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...

Videos