LEONARDO is the fusion of a bipedal walking robot with a flying drone

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leonardo is an intersection of walk and fly

caltech researchers have built one of the most agile humanoids, nicknamed LEONARDO – an acronym for “legacy onboard drone” – which can switch between walking and flying. using leg joints and propeller thrusters, LEO is a fusion of a bipedal walking robot with a flying drone that can perform unusual locomotive maneuvers which, even in humans, require the ability to balance; like walking on a slackline, skateboarding or even climbing stairs instead of walking them.

basically, the robot walks on its gangly three-jointed legs, while its design has been influenced by how birds are able to flap and jump.“We wanted to study the interface of walk and flight from the point of view of dynamics and control”, said chung.all images courtesy of caltech

bipedal robot and hybrid drone

Robots with hybrid motion capability can challenge difficult terrain more easily than traditional robots, as they can switch between aerial and bipedal modes. bipedal robots can successfully traverse various environments, using human movements; jump, run or climb stairs, but sometimes they struggle with rough terrain. On the other hand, flying robots can easily cope with harsh environments, avoiding the ground, but they face other limitations.

LEO features lightweight legs that support the majority of its weight while unloading its thrusters. However, since the thrusters are controlled synchronously with the joints of his legs, this humanoid has an eerie balance. “Because of its propellers, you can push or push LEO with a lot of force without actually knocking the robot over”, says elena-sorina lupu (ms ’21), a graduate student at caltech and co-author of the article on scientific robotics.

LEONARDO is a fusion of a bipedal walking robot with a flying drone that masters a slackline
walk on a slackline

video still courtesy of ‘LEONARDO: the skater and slackline robot’

walk like a human

LEO weighs just 5.7 pounds (2.58 kg) and is 2.5 feet (0.7 meters) tall. the robot adopts a walking technique similar to that of a human. the four propeller thrusters attached to the shoulders ensure that the robot does not collapse once it walks, while the leg actuators change the position of its legs and center of mass, thus realizing a walk controller and synchronized flight. in flight, LEO uses only its propellers and flies like a drone.

the project was started two years ago, with the authors of the scientific robotics article and three undergraduate caltech students who got involved in the project under the research fellowship program (surf) d summer of the institute. the team’s vision is to make LEO more self-sufficient and improve its performance by creating a more rigid leg design capable of supporting more of the robot’s weight and increasing the thrust force of the propellers.LEONARDO is a fusion of a bipedal walking robot with a flying drone that masters a slacklinevideo still courtesy of ‘LEONARDO: the skater and slackline robot’

visions of the future for LEO

“Currently, LEO uses propellers to balance itself while walking, which means it uses energy quite inefficiently. we plan to improve the leg design to run and balance LEO with minimal help from the propellers, ‘ says Lupu, who will continue to work on LEO throughout his doctoral program.

technology designed for LEO could drive the development of adaptive landing gear systems comprised of controlled leg joints for aerial robots and other types of flying vehicles. the team envisions that future Mars rotorcraft could be fitted with a foot landing gear so that the body balance of these aerial robots can be maintained when they land on sloping or uneven terrain, thereby reducing the risk of failure under difficult landing conditions.

LEONARDO is a fusion of a bipedal walking robot with a flying drone that masters a slackline
fly the stairs instead of going down

video still courtesy of ‘LEONARDO: the skater and slackline robot’

LEONARDO is a fusion of a bipedal walking robot with a flying drone that masters a slackline

project info:

Name: LEONARD

developped by: caltech

christina petridou I design boom

07 Oct 2021


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