LEO, a Robot that Can Walk and Float

The robot was named LEONARDO or Legs Onboard Drone. Abbreviated as LEO, the robot was developed by a team at the Center for Autonomous Systems and Technology, California Institute of Technology. Researchers say LEO is the first robot to use multi-joint legs and propeller-based thrusters to allow it to balance and perform complex movements.

Sorina Lupu is a doctoral student who co-developed the robot. The main figure behind the development of the robot itself is Professor Soon-Jo Chung, an expert on space flight systems, control and dynamics at the research university in Pasadena, California, the.

“When we designed LEO, we envisioned that LEO could solve difficult problems for humans. For example, inspection of high voltage lines or painting of high bridges because LEO, which uses ground contact, is more reliable than drones. And because it can take advantage of ground contact, it is this, the robot can perform these difficult activities much safer and more efficiently.”

The LEO can walk like a human using a propeller that can keep it upright, and two jointed legs that can move its center of weight forward.  (Courtesy: Caltech)

The LEO can walk like a human using a propeller that can keep it upright, and two jointed legs that can move its center of weight forward. (Courtesy: Caltech)

LEO is about 0.75 meters high. The robot has four propeller thrusters mounted on its shoulders. The LEO can walk like a human using a propeller that can keep it upright, and two jointed legs that can move its center of weight forward.

By combining lightweight legs and thrusters, the researchers say, LEO can overcome the limitations of walking robots, which are easily rolled over by rough terrain, and flying robots, which consume a lot of energy and require large batteries. In short, this robot has the ability to balance the body better than ordinary two-legged robots because of its ability to walk and fly.

Patrick Spieler, another researcher who is also involved in the development of LEO, is optimistic about the use of this robot in the future.

“I think we’re going to see robots like LEO with incredible locomotion being used in things like space exploration because they can tackle really tough terrain. They can get to difficult places. I also think robots like this will increasingly become a part of our daily lives. As these robots become more reliable, we will find them involved in delivering packages or helping with daily household chores,” he explained.

A scientific paper on LEO robots is published in the October 2021 issue of the journal Science Robotics. [ab/uh]

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