MSU TailBot: A Tail Assisted Running and Jumping Robot

In nature, small animals or insects use multiple locomotion methods to efficiently travel in difficult environments. Inspired by the multi-modal locomotion ability found in animals, we aim to investigate the multi-modal locomotion ability for small robots. Specifically, we want to design a robot that can run on flat ground, jump to overcome large obstacles, and control its mid-air orientation once leaping into the air.

We have built a miniature robot which can perform the above functions. It has a lightweight 26.5 gram and a small maximum size 7.5 cm, yet it can achieve the three functions: running, jumping, and aerial maneuvering. Furthermore, it can jump up to 80 centimeters—more than ten times its body size. Finally, this robot is equipped with on-board energy, sensing, control, and wireless communication capabilities, which enables tetherless or autonomous operation.

We added a tail to our previous jumping robot. By actively swinging the tail in mid-air, we can control the robot's body angle to ensure a safe landing posture—landing on the ground with its side. This tail can also make the robot stand up for the next jump or lie down for running.

To the best of our knowledge, this is the first miniature robot that having all the three capabilities: running, jumping, and aerial maneuvering. The following video shows the robot in action.

Related Publications

  • J. Zhao, T. Zhao, N. Xi, F. Cintron, M. Mutka, and L. Xiao, Controlling Aerial Maneuvering of a Miniature Jumping Robot Using Its Tail, IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), November 3-7, 2013, Tokyo Big Sight, Japan, To Appear, Preprint.