Like people, mobile robots encounter a range of terrain and obstacles. Building an efficient machine that can deal with uneven surfaces and get around, over or under obstructions is something that vexes many roboticists.
But not scientists at Disney Research and the Swiss institute ETH Zurich. They've teamed up to build a hybrid helicopter-car robot that can move over a variety of ground surfaces and also climb up walls.
Hamster Wheel Inspires Spheriod Robot
The VertiGo robot has a lightweight carbon-fiber baseplate, 3D-printed parts, four skinny wheels and two propellers that can tilt to drive the little robot forward or up.
Robots able to scale walls typically rely on some kind of adhesion technology (typically in an effort to mimic that versatile lizard, the gecko, which can cling to any surface, including glass). But adhesion works well on some surfaces such as those that are smooth and terribly on others, especially those that are rough.
VertiGo doesn't use adhesion. Instead, its tilting helicopter-like blades spin hard enough to push the robot against the wall, defying gravity. It can traverse smooth surfaces just fine, but also does well on rough ones, too, and even curvy surfaces.