Scientists in Germany have developed a prototype robot that they hope will have a wide range of uses from helping emergency relief teams during natural disasters to clearing mines from war zones.
They call it the spider robot.
Four of its legs remain constantly on the ground while the other four move forward, giving the robot great stability. It is made from plastic, contains very little in the way of electronics and is powered by compressed air.
So it is lightweight, and its developers say the form of propulsion means it can be operated almost anywhere.
Jannis Breuninger, Product Developer at Fraunhofer IPA in Stuttgart, said: “Air exists everywhere so we can operate the spider anywhere with a simple air pump.”
Each spider robot costs about 500 euros to produce, which makes it far cheaper to make than most other robot designs.
And that means hundreds could be turned out quickly in the event of an emergency, like an earthquake, to help search for survivors.
The spiders can be equipped with cameras to send live video back to a control room.
Breuninger added: “The walking robot is suitable for use in disaster zones because it has a very stable motion that means that we can operate on very rough terrain. We could also use the robot in mine fields. Because they are cheap to make we can produce large numbers that can walk over mines to trigger detonation so the robots would effectively be doing mine clearance.”
Originally a student project this research is at its very early stages but according to the scientists they are encouraged by the results. The next step is to improve the spider’s steering and control.