John Hopkins University researchers have developed a robotic snake to assist rescue missions after such disasters as earthquakes.

In the article “Robotic modelling of snake traversing large, smooth obstacles reveals stability benefits of body compliance” published in The Royal Society journal on February 19, scientists explain how biological studies of snakes can improve manoeuvrability in robotics.

Snakes are known to be masters of locomotion. For example, when climbing the trees, there carefully distribute body weight. Yet “we still relatively little about how snakes maintain stability when surmounting obstacles such as boulders that are too large and smooth to gain such ‘anchor points’ by gripping or bracing”, shared researchers.

Researcher have discovered that “snakes combine body lateral undulation and cantilevering to stably traverse large steps”.

Using this knowledge in robotics have helped scientists to develop a robotic snake with reconfigurable body that can be stable in the environments that form as an aftermath of disasters. After adding body compliance, the stability was improved, without reducing speed: 

“Besides advancing understanding of snake locomotion, our robot achieved high traversal speed surpassing most previous snake robots and approaching snakes, while maintaining high traversal probability”

Chen Li, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Johns Hopkins University in the US and a senior author of the research, confessed that further research would be needed to truly achieve snake elegance, but nevertheless current fundings already can serve as a significant add-on to robotics applications:

“The animal is still far more superior, but these results are promising for the field of robotics that can travel across large obstacles”

Image Credit: John Hopkins University via Guardian

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