Existing climbing robots that move on wheels and caterpillar tracks are limited to travel on rugged surfaces, while legged robots that can climb over such surfaces are extremely slow or unable to perform versatile movements.
A research team led by Park Hae-won, a mechanical engineering professor at Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology (KAIST), has developed MARVEL, an agile four-legged robot capable of performing various types of movements on rough and uneven surfaces. The robot can move at a speed of 70 centimeters (19.7 inches) per second on vertical walls and 50 centimeters per second on ceilings. Without any difficulties, MARVEL can jump over 10-centimeter-wide gaps and move over five-centimeter-tall obstacles.
The robot weighing 8 kilograms (17 pounds) is equipped with four magnetic feet weighing 0.2 kilograms each. Unlike regular electromagnets that use a lot of electricity to generate magnetic force, the new model controls its magnetic power by providing electric current only for a short time. The new model is faster in switching its magnetic state while the voltage required for switching is lower than that of conventional models. The adhesive strength on rough surfaces was also increased.
"These robots will be widely used in steel structures such as shipyards," KAIST researcher Um Yong said in a statement on December 26. The research team said MARVEL will be used in many other facilities such as pipelines and bridges to reduce accident risks such as falling and suffocation.
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