Sand Flea with its piston (Credit: Boston Dynamics)
U.S. Company Boston Dynamics recently demonstrated a new type of tiny robotic jumper capable of surpassing almost any type of obstacle by jumping as high as a 3 story building. The robot is equipped with a camera which can help soldiers in urban war zones or teams of rescue professionals in disaster areas and hazardous environments.
From the guys who brought to you the robotic BigDog, Alpha Dog, LS3, Cheetah and many other advanced droids, comes a new breakthrough in robotics – Sand Flea. This tiny remote control sized robot (only 11 pounds) can move quickly on a variety of different surfaces, stop and leap straight up in the air to heights up to 30 feet – allowing it to overcome almost any urban obstacle.
The Sand Flea uses a piston which is powered by CO2 and can propel the robot up to 25 times before it needs to be recharged. The Sand Flea is also accurate enough to jump into an open window two stories up in the air using a special stabilization system. The robot was developed with the purpose of helping soldiers in urban war zones such as Afghanistan where it can jump over walls and into buildings and use its camera to assist soldiers in identifying enemy targets. The Sand Flea can also be used for civilian missions, for example it can be operated remotely in hazardous areas similar to the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant to try and assess damage without exposing people to lethal doses of radiation.
The Sand Flea is the latest generation of jumping robots from Boston Dynamics. The company initiated the research in this field in 2009 as part of a collaboration with Sandia National Labs. Unlike the earlier Precision Urban Hopper developed by the company engineers, which can jump while on the move, the Sand Flea stops “take aim” and only than launches itself into the air, making for a more powerful and significantly more accurate hop.
You can watch a video of the Sand Flea in action on the following Boston Dynamics video:
TFOT covered several other robots developed by Boston Dynamics including the original BigDog. An updated look of the BigDog from 2009 and more recently a story on the LS3 – the most recent in the BigDog family. We also covered another related story in which researchers from the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems at EPFL in Switzerland, have developed a grasshopper-inspired jumping robot capable of jumping to a height of more than 27 times its body size.
Iddo has a B.A. in Philosophy and Cognitive Science and an M.A. in Philosophy of Science from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is currently writing his Ph.D. thesis on the relationship between the scientific community and industry. Iddo was awarded the 2006 Bar Hillel philosophy of science prize for his work on the relationship between science and technology. He is a member of the board of the lifeboat foundation and was the editor of several high-profile science and technology websites since 1999.