Animal-inspired drones and robots have now been observed accomplishing a wide variety of tasks, including surveillance, predictive maintenance in industrial settings, and as mobile payload transportation system for when a situation becomes too dangerous for a human. But unlike the current robots, maker Halid Yildirim wanted to make a quadruped robot dog that was comprised entirely of replaceable modules rather than a monolithic system. This modular approach allows for the robot to be adapted in many more ways than a traditional one, and as new modules are introduced, the platform's capabilities can be greatly enhanced.
In the robot's current form, the platform is made up of six distinct units in a default configuration. At the core is a compute unit which is responsible for gathering inputs, performing calculations, and outputting motions. A Teensy 3.5 was selected due to its fast speed and large amounts of RAM/flash storage. Additionally, the unit contains a Wi-Fi module, a GPS module, and a gyroscope for orientation data. A singular battery unit provides power to the robot with its pair of LiPo battery packs, and a regulator unit reduces the voltage to 6V for the servos and 3.3v/5v for the electronics. Finally, pressure sensors positioned at the legs assist in walking while the camera module can grab images for later use.
To get the robot moving, Yildirim developed a DIY remote controller that features a pair of joysticks for producing basic movements. A large character LCD shows current telemetry and a series of buttons can be used to navigate the menu and perform various actions. An Arduino Micro drives everything and communicates with the robot over Wi-Fi by sending serial data to an ESP8266 module.
From here, the remote controller can tell the robot where to move or activate an autonomous action, which ranges from keeping balanced, adjusting height, and even avoiding obstacles with data from a spinning LiDAR sensor.
This system is not constrained to merely walking, either, as it features several intriguing expansion modules that provide additional functionality. One of these is a dangerous gas detection unit that has an MQ-7 gas sensor and continuously monitors for the presence of carbon monoxide and methane. But perhaps the coolest expansion unit is the drone station module that lets the user launch a drone from a mobile platform.