Snake robot obstacle-aided locomotion

Control Strategies for Snake Robot Locomotion in Challenging Outdoor Environments (SNAKE)

The use of future service and security robots in e.g. search and rescue, pipe inspection, and firefighting operations will rely on their ability to maintain mobility in unknown and challenging environments. Snake robots carry the potential of contributing significantly in such applications due to their long, slender and flexible body that can provide robust propulsion skills in virtually any environment. However, practical applications of these mechanisms are still very limited since the research communities have so far focused primarily on control strategies for locomotion over flat surfaces.

The SNAKE project targets research challenges imposed by snake robot locomotion in cluttered and “application-realistic” environments. Inspired by biological snakes, external objects and irregularities are considered beneficial since they represent push-points that the snake robot can curl around in order to push its body forward, i.e. perform ‘obstacle-aided locomotion’. This inherently robust form of locomotion has been a strategic research focus at NTNU/SINTEF over the last years. The overall objective of SNAKE is to realize obstacle-aided locomotion in cluttered outdoor environments. To this end, the project will, for the first time, develop sensor processing algorithms which enable a snake robot to map properties of its environment by ‘feeling’ it, i.e. based on measured contact forces along its body (‘tactile SLAM’). Furthermore, the project will develop new control strategies for obstacle-aided locomotion with focus on environment adaptation. The project will experimentally investigate the control approaches using a new and unique snake robot prototype recently developed by SNAKE researchers.

The project will be carried out as a close collaboration between NTNU and SINTEF. The project is funded by the Norwegian Research Council and is scheduled to be carried out from mid 2015 to mid 2018.

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