Feeds

Boffins build sticky-limbed lizard-bots to tend spacecraft

Gecko-inspired units able to crawl outside hulls

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Researchers with the European Space Agency (ESA) have developed a class of robots which could one day grace the outside of orbiting spacecraft.

Dubbed "Abigaille", the robot family uses a dry-adhesive material to cling to structures and move along surfaces even in extreme conditions such as space travel.

According to researchers from ESA and Canada's Simon Fraser University, the Abigaille system design was inspired by the physiology that geckos and other small lizards employ to crawl along walls and rock faces.

Inspired by the tiny hairs on the gecko's foot, which are able to connect with materials on a molecular level, researchers equipped the treads on the robots' feet with microscopic-scale pads capable of supporting an Abigaille unit when climbing up a wall or ceiling, or when subjected to forces and conditions present on the outside of a spacecraft.

The boffins noted that the dry adhesive technology is a critical component for a unit operating in the vacuum of space on highly valuable and sensitive units which could be damaged by the fumes from chemical adhesives or the stresses of velcro or magnetic connections.

Researchers believe that a six-legged Abigaille 'bot could one day serve as a maintenance and cleaning unit, crawling along the outside of larger spacecraft to perform various tasks.

"It's very expensive to upgrade hardware once it is up in space so the idea would be to fly a more general robot in the first place. This could then be adapted through software upgrades for different tasks that weren't anticipated at the start of the project," said Simon Fraser University researcher Michael Henrey.

“Our Abigaille climbing robot is therefore quite dexterous, with six legs each having four degrees of freedom, so it should be handle environments that a wheeled robot could not.

The team plans to continue work on the unit to improve both its performance and its ability to move along various surfaces and contours. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing and building an open ITOA architecture
Learn about a new IT data taxonomy defined by the four data sources of IT visibility: wire, machine, agent, and synthetic data sets.
Why CIOs should rethink endpoint data protection in the age of mobility
Assessing trends in data protection, specifically with respect to mobile devices, BYOD, and remote employees.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.