Image: Ben-Gurion U

A new highly maneuverable search and rescue robot that can creep, crawl and climb over rough terrain and through tight spaces have been developed by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) researchers.

The Rising Sprawl-Tuned Autonomous Robot (RSTAR) can switch between moving over flat surfaces, climbing large obstacles and walls, and crawling through tunnels, pipes and narrow gaps.

The robot uses its round wheels to travel more than three feet per second on hard flat surfaces and switches to spoke wheels to traverse extremely soft or granular surfaces, like thick mud or sand, without getting stuck. It also climbs vertically and crawls horizontally by pressing its wheels to walls without touching the floor.

“The RSTAR is ideal for search and rescue operations in unstructured environments, such as collapsed buildings or flooded areas, where it must adapt and overcome a variety of successive obstacles to reach its target,”

– David Zarrouk of the Israeli Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, which built the RSTAR, in a press statement.

The bot was presented at the 2018 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in Brisbane, Australia. The “Sprawl” in its name comes from the robot’s legs. The RSTAR’s legs are adjusted downwards and away from the body, but can be adjusted to change the robot’s center of mass. When a robot can change its center of mass, it becomes more varied in the tasks it can perform and the movements it can achieve.

 

 

Dr. Zarrouk and BGU student and robotics lab worker Liran Yehezkel designed RSTAR to function simply and reliably, change shape and overcome common obstacles without any external mechanical intervention. Its speed and relatively low energy consumption make the robot ideal for a broad range of applications that may require longer work time.

The BGU team is working on a larger STAR robot version that will climb over larger obstacles, including stairs, and carry more than four pounds of sensors and supplies. A smaller STAR or RSTAR will piggyback on the larger robot to use in hard-to-reach areas and sneak in between narrow cracks and passages.