Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) have unveiled a new high-speed amphibious robot inspired by cockroaches, capable of running on top of bodies of water: the AmphiSTAR.
"The AmphiSTAR uses a sprawling mechanism inspired by cockroaches, and it is designed to run on water at high speeds like the basilisk lizard," explains Dr. David Zarrouk of the project. "We envision that AmphiSTAR can be used for agricultural, search and rescue and excavation applications, where both crawling and swimming are required."
Presented last week at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), the palm-size AmphiSTAR is a wheeled robot system fitted with four propellers where the wheels would normally go. The axes of the propellers can be tilted using a sprawling mechanism, and on land act as whiles while turning into fins for swimming and — impressively — a water-walking mode which propels it across the surface at speeds of up to 1.5 meters per second (around 3.4 miles per hour).
The amphibious design can switch between modes using a pair of air tanks, sinking and swimming on demand, while over gravel, grass, and concrete can hit speeds of 3.6m/s (around 8 miles per hour) — the same performance as the lab's earlier STAR robot.
The team has indicated it will concentrate on scaling the robot up, and improving the performance of its underwater swimming mode. The paper has not yet been published for public dissemination.