Reconfigurable robot prototype for search-and-rescue operations

March 28, 2011

Scientists at UC Davis have invented an intelligent, reconfigurable, modular robot that may eventually form the basis of robots for search-and-rescue operations in difficult terrain, says Graham Ryland and Professor Harry Cheng.

Their “iMobot” has four controllable degrees of freedom, with two joints in the center section, and two wheels, one on each end. An individual module can drive on its wheels, crawl like an inchworm, or raise one end of its body and pan around as a camera platform.

Individual modules can be assembled into larger robots for particular tasks, such as a snakelike robot that can get into confined spaces, or a larger, wheeled robot for smoother terrain.

The scientists say their iMobot technology can be used in industrial applications for rapidly prototyping complex robotics. UC Davis has filed a patent on the robot.

Cheng and Ryland have formed a company, Barobo Inc., to develop the robot commercially. The inventors hope to have the robot on the market by the end of this year.