Sunday, February 21, 2016

ETH Zurich and Disney Combine To Create A Steampunk Drone/Car

From IEEE Spectrum:

Disney’s VertiGo Combines Car, Helicopter to Drive Up Walls
For robots, multimodal is the way to go, when going involves getting to as many places as you possibly can. Designing a robot with the ability to deal with a variety of terrains or conditions usually requires some creativity, and in the past, some of the most creative designs have come from ETH Zurich and Disney Research, like this wall-climbing base-jumping tornado-powered robot called Paraswift.
As cool as Paraswift was, since it depended on suction to climb walls, it couldn’t deal with rough surfaces that prevented a solid vacuum seal. This led the Disney Research/ETH team to try something else, and that something else is a new robot called VertiGo, which is a sort of hybrid helicopter-car-thing that can drive on the ground and then transition to climb up vertical walls.
A key research problem in the design of VertiGo robot was to maximize the ratio between thrust output and vehicle weight. Weight is minimized by using a central carbon fibre baseplate, while 3Dprinted parts in conjunction with carbon-rods are used for more complex three dimensional structures like the wheel suspension or the wheels themselves. The baseplate provides mounting points for two thruster modules and the wheel suspensions. It also serves as carrier for all the electronic parts and wires. The thrusters are mounted using a two-ringed Cardan Suspension. Integrated servomotors allow the inner and outer ring to be moved independently from one another. This supports the generation of all the forces required to drive on the floor, on walls and theoretically even on the ceiling.
Those four wheels are unpowered: all of VertiGo’s propulsive power comes from those two steerable propellers, which can direct thrust along both pitch and roll axes. It’s no slouch in car mode, but the neatest trick is of course the ground to wall transition, which the robot accomplishes by using its rear propellor to thrust against the wall while the front propellor thrusts upward, causing the robot to flip vertically. This particular control problem was “somewhat of a step in the dark,” Disney Research’s Paul Beardsley told us. “But it worked.”...