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Military Robots Grow Tails

Military Robots Grow Tails

Californian researchers add tails to robots so they can stabilize themselves in the air…

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have borrowed tricks from nature to help robots stabilize themselves midflight. Inspired by lizards, which use their tails to counter the angle of their body whilst in the air, the team demonstrated how a robot with an adjustable tail could also right itself for a perfect landing.

Funded in part by the Army Research Laboratory, the team setup a stumble test to analyze how a redheaded African Agama lizard uses its tail to navigate obstacles. They found that when jumping, the animal swings its tail upward to prevent itself from pitching forward. This motion allowed the lizard to land on its back feet, or all fours, instead crashing face first into the ground.

tailbots gets lizard tails for stabilization

Tailbot Robot Uses Tail For Stabilization

Dr. Robert Full, a professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley, said
“We showed for the first time that lizards swing their tail up or down to counteract the rotation of their body, keeping them stable.”

The team then created its Tailbot robot, a radio control car with a gyroscope and adjustable aluminum rod in place of a tail, to see if the same theory could be applied to robots.

When the bot was launched of the ramp, the researchers were able to articulate the tail to mimic the movement of the lizards and correct the bot in mid air, just like the lizard.

The video is pretty amazing for such simple stuff.

It’s thought that animals have been using tails for stabilization since the dinosaurs. One 1969 study noted how the velociraptor may have used its tail to provide dynamic stabilization, which made it more nimble than its larger cousins.

We’ve already seen variations of leaping and throwable robots, and the new study demonstrates how these jumping bots could be given extra stability with simple tail. No doubt the findings will lead to a new generation of animal inspire bots.

Related Posts:


  1. Rebecca Boyle: Video: Leaping Lizards' Helpful Tails Inspire New Robot Design. Popular Science, 01/04/2011.
  2. Kattie Drummond: Video: Army’s Leaping ‘Bots Grow Lizard Tails. Wired, 10/05/2011.
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