One of those odd facts that children learn at school — how fleas can jump many times their own height — has now materialized in the form of a new robotic design.
We’ve seen robots designed by scientists across the world that take their inspiration from animals. The snake for its flexibility; the jellyfish’s flexibility and streamlined movement which can be useful in underwater operations; butterflies for efficient micro-flying designs.
Now, the Sand Flea robotic design is able to cross large distances and obstacles by using a sophisticated jumping mechanism.
Designed by company Boston Dynamics, the robotic flea is able to rear up prior to launching, and can clear heights of 30 feet (9 meters). It uses a CO2 powered piston that launches the 11-pound machine into the air. A small platform on its belly props the Sand Flea up onto its wheels before launch.
A remote controller is able to dictate the height and angle of a jump.
The robot uses a gyroscopic stabilization system to keep it orientated in flight, as well as controlled enough to perform safe landings. The Sand Flea is currently able to jump 25 times before the need to refuel surfaces.
The Sand Flea robot has been designed in order to capture and relay video whilst jumping across terrain, as it is equipped with an infrared video camera. This could apply to assisting humans in search and rescue — or for military combat awareness.
According to reports, it is being considered for future use in Afghanistan military operations.
The project was funded by DARPA, the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) and the U.S. Army’s Rapid Equipping Force. An earlier version of the Sand Flea was developed by Sandia National Labs according to the video below.
Image credit: Boston Dynamics