CalTech Builds a Drone With Legs


Staff member
Mar 3, 2018
Legged robots and propeller-powered drones each have major strengths and weaknesses, but IEEE Spectrum says that a group of researchers want to combine the best of both worlds. Caltech’s Center for Autonomous Systems and Technologies is building a robot they call "Leonardo," short for LEg ON Aerial Robotic DrOne, which combines a set of drone rotors with 2 legs. The researchers say they're going to test the robot in a hopscotch court soon, and that arms or other attached tools aren't out of the question. Long term, the researchers envision using this kind of robot as a "dormant," mobile response system for disaster scenarios, but admit that that kind of application is a long ways off.

The video poster for Leonardo is misleading, as it can't play tennis yet, but you still watch the researchers test the robot here.

Leo is mostly made of carbon fiber, and is about 0.75 meter tall. It weighs just 2.75 kilograms, which is light enough that the thrusters mounted on either side of its torso can lift the entire robot off the ground. Leo isn’t really designed to be a flying robot with legs, though-those thrusters are primarily used to enhance what Leo's legs will be able to do. What you’re seeing in the video, for example, is the thrusters being used to actively balance Leo’s upper body, so that Leo’s legs don’t have to do all the work. The propellers are synchronized with the leg joints to move the torso up and down under closed-loop control. Leo can balance on its own using just its legs, but using the thrusters in tandem could help it to make more agile motions, especially over rough terrain or in push recovery. It may help to think of the thrusters as an anti-gravity system that are there mainly to counteract the weight of the robot. Since the thrusters can, if necessary, take the robot's entire weight, it's possible that Leo will be much better at not falling over, since it could fly for a brief period to reorient itself. Longer term, the idea is that Leo will be doing a lot of jumping, with the thrusters significantly augmenting both height and distance, with a multimodal nature that will increase versatility, reliability, and endurance.
Yeah... so it's not if we all die, it's when.... and the when just got sooner... a cyberdine T-800 wasn't bad enough... now it flys as well, because of course.
Working close to hunter-killer drones......Skynet is being deployed and we are building its first set of terminators with it. Awesome!