Enabling Multimodal Robots via Controllable Adhesives
Abstract: This talk discusses the design and analysis of robots that use adhesives to combine multiple modes of operation. In each case, these platforms are made possible by a proliferation of components -- from microprocessors to sensors and motors -- that have accompanied the growth of drones or quadrotors in consumer markets. The components are compact and light enough that it is possible to support multiple modes of operation on a small platform. These systems take a cue from small creatures such as insects, most of which have multiple modes of operation (e.g. flying and crawling) and which can often move objects many times their weight through the use of attachment mechanisms at the tarsus of each limb.The resulting platforms are often capable of tasks that no single mode of operation can support. For example, one of these platforms, named FlyCroTugs, can navigate 3D environments, attach a tether to a heavy object, land and then pull that object with a force many times the robot's weight through the use of gecko-inspired adhesives. Another example involves a small platform, named KlingOn, that can transition from a ballistic perch to crawling on a vertical surfaces. A third example involves a gripper that can capture free-floating objects with a flexible-backed adhesives. Modeling the force constraints associated with the adhesives leads to corresponding dynamic constraints on the robots, in terms of their trajectories and velocities. The adhesive force constraints also have implications for the dimensions, geometry, and stiffness of the robot attachment pads and grippers. Ultimately, increased attention to robotic end-effectors and attachment mechanisms can promote the efficacy of small, multimodal robotic systems interacting with their environment.