Robot designs have been inspired by cheetahs (for speed), dogs (to carry things) and even humans. Boston Dynamics, which gave us all three, has now turned to the lowly flea for inspiration, making a robot that can jump 30 feet into the air and land safely.
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It's called the Sand Flea. Real fleas jump using the strength of their feet, and can go hundreds of times the distance of their own body length. The robotic version uses compressed gas and can't go quite so high, but jumping to the roof of a two-story building is still pretty impressive. It has four large wheels so it can tackle rough terrain. Boston Dynamics says the robot uses a stabilization system to keep itself righted when it flies through the air.
The Sand Flea carries a camera to give a controller up to 215 yards away a view of the surroundings. And it can even swim. The robot is small, about 11 pounds, and has enough compressed gas for up to 25 jumps.
The Sand Flea — along with the throwable Scout XT robot — is headed to Afghanistan, where it will be tested in real-world conditions.
Afghanistan is becoming a hotbed of robotic soldiering, as thousands have already been deployed there. The numbers are even higher when one considers the unmanned aerial vehicles used. Land-bound robots do things like bomb disposal and reconnaissance, reducing the risk to the troops in the field.