New robot drone can both fly and drive into tight spaces

The FSTAR robot can quickly transform from aerial to ground mode
The FSTAR robot can quickly transform from aerial to ground mode

The field of robotics is making a great leap in robot abilities. But we won’t have that satisfaction until the various specific tasks are combined into one machine.

With the same mission in mind to create a robot that can perform various activities, the researchers at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev at Beersheba, Israel have developed a ‘groundbreaking’ hybrid robot that can both fly and drive, as well as squeeze into tight spaces, all while using the same motor.

A hybrid flying crawling quadcopter

The robot named the hybrid FSTAR (flying sprawl-tuned autonomous robot) is the world’s first experimental robot drone that can fly into the sky like a quadcopter, drives on tough terrain.

This four-wheeled, square-shaped, winged machine can roll over the rough terrain, fly upstairs, squeeze itself or raise its body. And the more interesting feature is, it can quickly move from driving mode into flying mode. The robot is also able to adjust its width to crawl or run on flat surfaces, climb over large obstacles and up walls, or squeeze through a tunnel, pipe or narrow gap.

The sprawl, which adjusts from a flat configuration to 55 degrees allows the robot to transform its movement from a flying quadcopter to a car-like robot. FSTAR can run on the ground at the speed of up to eight feet per second (2.6 m/s) and uses low energy to operate. The low energy consumption using the same motors makes it ideal for a broad range of applications that may require longer work time.

Possible application

‘The Flying STAR robot’ can be used for a variety of commercial purposes. For example, the package deliveries as it can fly to the target zone quickly, and then use their wheels safely and quickly to reach the recipient’s door.

Moreover, the new flying/driving robot can be useful in many search and rescue operations since it can reach places where a regular drone cannot fly. According to the research team, the robot can also be used in agriculture, maintenance, cleaning, filming, and entertainment, as well as law enforcement and anti-terrorist applications.

This autonomous robot is going to be introduced at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation 2019 in Montreal, Canada, Today (on May 21).

It was developed in the BGU Bio-Inspired and Medical Robotics Lab by Prof. David Zarrouk, senior lecturer in BGU’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, and head of the Bio-Inspired and Medical Robotics Lab and his graduate student, Nir Meiri.

We plan to develop larger and smaller versions to expand this family of sprawling robots for different applications, as well as algorithms that will help exploit speed and cost of transport for these flying/driving robots.” Dr. Zarrouk says.

The hybrid-robot research was supported in part by the Helmsley Charitable Trust through the Agricultural, Biological and Cognitive Robotics Initiative (ABC Robotics) and by the BGU Marcus Endowment Fund.