Engineers at the University of Tokyo have built a robotic spider that can walk and fly with 16 rotors mounted on its legs. Gizmodo reports that thanks to nature, spiders have already developed the ability to ‘fly’: they use spider webs roughly 3 metres long to parachute around. This is known as a fistful. Engineers can’t (yet) replicate this, so they’ve developed a robotic spider crossed with drones.
It wasn’t easy. In order for a robot to walk, it has to be equipped with structures that are, on the whole, very heavy. Even Boston Dynamics’ robot dog weighs almost 32 kilograms, and that’s a slim structure. That’s why it’s not easy to lift a four-legged robot spider into the air.
What makes the SpherIcally vectorable and Distributed rotors assisted Air-ground amphibious quadruped Robot (Spidar) so special is that it uses light but relatively weak servo motors on its articulated limbs, which are not actually strong enough to allow the 15 kilogram stick to stand on its own.
Instead, four propellers are mounted on its legs to help lift them, so that it can walk – crawl – on its own. And if it encounters an obstacle it cannot overcome, it simply rises into the air and flies over it.
Spidar’s batteries are enough to keep it walking for 18 minutes or flying for 9 minutes. That’s not too much for now, so we don’t have to worry about the robot spider flying through our window at night. Nor, of course, because the 16 rotors make enough noise that we can close the window in time.