When it comes to vertical jumping, the galago is the top performer of the animal kingdom. This small primate has a special ability to store energy in its tendons so that it can leap to heights not achievable by its muscles alone; in just four seconds, it can jump five times to gain a combined height of 8.5 meters (27.9 feet). Inspired by this ability, Berkeley engineers have designed a small robot that can leap into the air and then spring off a wall, or perform multiple vertical jumps in a row, resulting in the highest vertical jumping agility ever recorded for battery-powered robots. The robot, known as Salto, uses a motor to drive a spring, which loads via a leg mechanism to create the kind of crouch seen in the galago. By using power modulation, Salto doesn’t need to wind up beforehand; as soon as it jumps, Salto is ready to go again. Duncan Haldane, a robotics Ph.D. candidate, led the work as part of the Biomimetic Millisystems Lab of Ronald Fearing, professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences. The researchers hope that one day Salto can be used to jump around rubble during search and rescue missions.
Watch Salto in action.