Towards a Self-Deploying and Gliding Robot

  • Mirko KovačEmail author
  • Jean-Christophe Zufferey
  • Dario Floreano


Strategies for hybrid locomotion such as jumping and gliding are used in nature by many different animals for traveling over rough terrain. This combination of locomotion modes also allows small robots to overcome relatively large obstacles at a minimal energetic cost compared to wheeled or flying robots. In this chapter we describe the development of a novel palm-sized robot of 10 g that is able to autonomously deploy itself from ground or walls, open its wings, recover in mid-air, and subsequently perform goal-directed gliding. In particular, we focus on the subsystems that will in the future be integrated such as a 1.5 g microglider that can perform phototaxis; a 4.5 g, bat-inspired, wing-folding mechanism that can unfold in only 50 ms; and a locust-inspired, 7 g robot that can jump more than 27 times its own height. We also review the relevance of jumping and gliding for living and robotic systems and we highlight future directions for the realization of a fully integrated robot.


Shape Memory Alloy Pulse Width Modulation Rough Terrain Shape Memory Alloy Wire Torsion Spring 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors would like to thank Martin Fuchs and Gregory Savioz for their significant contribution in the development of the wing-folding mechanism and the jumping robot. Also we would like to thank the Atelier de l’Institut de production et Robotique (ATPR), and André Guignard for their competent advice and endurance in the iterative fabrication process. Many thanks to Hans Ulrich Buri at EPFL for the fruitful discussion and advise on the Origami structures. This project is funded by EPFL and by the Swiss National Science Foundation, Grant number 200021-105545/1.


  1. 1.
    Info-sheet No. 13, Nitinol Alloy Types, Conditions and Surfaces.
  2. 2.
    Micro flyer radio.
  3. 3.
    Alexander, R.M.: Principles of Animal Locomotion. Princeton University Press (2003)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Armour, R., Paskins, K., Bowyer, A., Vincent, J.F.V., Megill, W.: Jumping robots: a biomimetic solution to locomotion across rough terrain. Bioinspiratoin and Biomimetics Journal 2, 65–82 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Azuma, A.: The Biokinetics of Flying and Swimming. American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (2006)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Bennet-Clark, H.C.: The energetics of the jump of the locust schistocerca gregaria. Journal of Experimental Biology 63(1), 53–83 (1975)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Bishop, K.L.: The relationship between 3-d kinematics and gliding performance in the southern flying squirrel, glaucomys volans. Journal of Experimental Biology 209(4), 689–701 (2006)CrossRefMathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Boria, F.J., Bachmann, R.J., Ifju, P., Quinn, R., Vaidyanathan, R., Perry, C., Wagener, J.: A sensor platform capable of aerial and terrestrial locomotion. 2005 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, 2005. (IROS 2005), pp. 3959–3964 (2005)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Braitenberg, V.: Vehicles – Experiments In Synthetic Psychology. The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA (1984)Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Brodsky, A.K.: The Evolution of Insect Flight. Oxford University Press (1996)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Burdick, J., Fiorini, P.: Minimalist jumping robot for celestial exploration. The International Journal of Robotics Research 22(7), 653–674 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Buri, H., Weinand, Y.: ORIGAMI - folded plate structures, architecture. 10th World Conference on Timber Engineering (2008)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Burrows, M.: Biomechanics: Froghopper insects leap to new heights. Nature 424(6948), 509Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Burrows, M., Wolf, H.: Jumping and kicking in the false stick insect prosarthria teretrirostris: kinematics and motor control. Journal of Experimental Biology 205(11), 1519–1530 (2002)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Byrnes, G., Lim, N., Spence, A.: Take-off and landing kinetics of a free-ranging gliding mammal, the malayan colugo (galeopterus variegatus) (2008)Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Coyle, F.A., Greenstone, M.H., Hultsch, A.L., Morgan, C.E.: Ballooning mygalomorphs: Estimates of the masses of sphodros and ummidia ballooners(araneae: Atypidae, ctenizidae). Journal of Arachnology 13(3), 291–296 (1985)Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Davenport, J.: Allometric constraints on stability and maximum size in flying fishes: Implications for their evolution. Journal of Fish Biology 62, 455–463 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Dudley, R., Byrnes, G., Yanoviak, S.P., Borrell, B., Brown, R.M., McGuire, J.A.: Gliding and the functional origins of flight: Biomechanical novelty or necessity? Annual Review of Ecology Evolution and System 38, 179–201 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Dyke, G.J., Nudds, R.L., Rayner, J.M.V.: Flight of sharovipteryx mirabilis: the world’s first delta-winged glider. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 19(4), 1040–1043 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Emerson, S.B., Koehl, M.A.R.: The interaction of behavioral and morphological change in the evolution of a novel locomotor type: “flying” frogs. Evolution 44(8), 1931–1946 (1990)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Entwistle, J.P., Fearing, R.S.: Flight simulation of a 3 gram autonomous glider, available at (2006)
  22. 22.
    Gronenberg, W.: Fast actions in small animals: springs and click mechanisms. Journal of Comparative Physiology A: Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology 178(6), 727–734 (1996)Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Haas, F., Gorb, S., Wootton, R.J.: Elastic joints in dermapteran hind wings: materials and wing folding. Arthropod Structure and Development 29(2), 137–146 (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Haas, F., Wootton, R.J.: Two basic mechanisms in insect wing folding. Proceedings: Biological Sciences 263(1377), 1651–1658 (1996)Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Jusufi, A., Goldman, D.I., Revzen, S., Full, R.J.: Active tails enhance arboreal acrobatics in geckos. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105(11), 4215–4219 (2008)Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Kaspari, M., Weiser, M.D.: The sizegrain hypothesis and interspecific scaling in ants. Functional Ecology 13(4), 530–538 (1999)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Keennon, M.T.: Muscle Wire Technology for Micro and Indoor Models (2004)Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Kovac, M., Fuchs, M., Guignard, A., Zufferey, J., Floreano, D.: A miniature 7 g jumping robot (2008)Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Kovac, M., Guignard, A., Nicoud, J.D., Zufferey, J.C., Floreano, D.: A 1.5 g sma-actuated microglider looking for the light. IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pp. 367–372 (2007)Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Lambrecht, B.G.A., Horchler, A.D., Quinn, R.D.: A small, insect-inspired robot that runs and jumps. International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pp. 1240–1245 (2005)Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Li, P.P., Gao, K.Q., Hou, L.H., Xu, X.: A gliding lizard from the early cretaceous of china. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104(13), 5507 (2007)Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Macia, S., Robinson, M.P., Craze, P., Dalton, R., Thomas, J.D.: New observations on airborne jet propulsion (flight) in squid, with a review of previous reports (2004)Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Mahadevan, L., Rica, S.: Self-organized origami. Science 307(5716), 1740 (2005). 10.1126/science.1105169. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Maynard Smith, J.: The importance of the nervous system in the evolution of animal flight. Evolution 6(1), 127–129 (1952)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    McCay, M.G.: Aerodynamical stability and maneuvrability of the gliding frog polypedates dennysi. Journal of Experimental Biology 204, 2817–2826 (2001)Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    McGuire, J.A.: Allometric prediction of locomotor performance: An example from southeast asian flying lizards. The American Naturalist 161(2), 337–9Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    McGuire, J.A., Dudley, R.: The cost of living large: Comparative gliding performance in flying lizards (agamidae: Draco). The American Naturalist 166(1), 93–106 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Meng, J., Hu, Y., Wang, Y., Wang, X., Li, C.: A mesozoic gliding mammal from northeastern china. Nature 444, 889–893Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Norberg, U.M.: Bat wing structures important for aerodynamics and rigidity (mammalia, chiroptera). Zoomorphology 73(1), 45–61 (1972)Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Norberg, U.M.: Vertebrate Flight: Mechanics, Physiology, Morphology, Ecology and Evolution (1990)Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Oliver, J.A.: “gliding” in amphibians and reptiles, with a remark on an arboreal adaptation in the lizard, anolis carolinensis carolinensis voigt. The American Naturalist 85(822), 171–176 (1951). CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Paskins, K.E., Bowyer, A., Megill, W.M., Scheibe, J.S.: Take-off and landing forces and the evolution of controlled gliding in northern flying squirrels glaucomys sabrinus. Journal of Experimental Biology 210(8), 1413 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Pellegrino, S.: Deployable Structures (2002)Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Roberts, T.J., Marsh, R.L.: Probing the limits to muscle-powered accelerations: lessons from jumping bullfrogs. Journal of Experimental Biology 206(15), 2567–2580 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Santer, R., Simmons, P., Rind, F.C.: Gliding Behaviour Elicited by Lateral Looming Stimuli in Flying Locusts. Journal of Comparative Physiology 191(1), 61–73 (2004)Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Scarfogliero, U., Stefanini, C., Dario, P.: Design and development of the long-jumping “grillo” mini robot. IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pp. 467–472 (2007)Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Socha, J., LaBarbera, M.: Effects of Size and Behavior on Aerial Performance of two Species of Flying Snakes (Chrysopelea). The Journal of Experimental Biology 208, 1835–1847 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Socha, J., O’Dempsey, T., LaBarbera, M.: A 3-d kinematic analysis of gliding in a flying snake, chrysopelea paradisi. Journal of Experimental Biology 208(10), 1817–1833 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. 49.
    Stoeter, S.A., Rybski, P.E., Papanikolopoulos, N.: Autonomous stair-hopping with scout robots. IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, vol.1, pp. 721–726 (2002)Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Suter, R.B.: Ballooning: data from spiders in freefall indicate the importance of posture. Journal of Arachnology 20(2), 107–113 (1992)Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    Templin, R.J.: The spectrum of animal flight: insects to pterosaurs. Progress in Aerospace Sciences 36(5–6), 393–436 (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. 52.
    Thomas, A.L.R., Jones, G., Rayner, J.M.V., Hughes, P.M.: Intermittent gliding flight in the pipistrelle bat (pipistrellus pipistrellus)(chiroptera: Vespertilionidae). Journal of Experimental Biology 149(1), 407–416 (1990)Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    Thompson, D.: On growth and form (1992)Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    Tsukagoshi, H., Sasaki, M., Kitagawa, A., Tanaka, T.: Design of a higher jumping rescue robot with the optimized pneumatic drive. IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pp. 1276–1283 (2005)Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    Vincent, J.F.V.: Deployable Structures in Biology, pp. 23–40. Springer (2003)Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    Wood, R., Avadhanula, S., Steltz, E., Seeman, M., Entwistle, J., Bachrach, A., Barrows, G., Sanders, S., Fearing, R.: Design, fabrication and initial results of a 2 g autonomous glider. IEEE Industrial Electronics Society 2005 Meeting, Raleigh North Carolina (2005)Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    Yanoviak, S., Dudley, R., Kaspari, M.: Directed Aerial Descent in Canopy Ants. Nature 433, 624–626 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. 58.
    Yanoviak, S.P., Dudley, R.: The role of visual cues in directed aerial descent of cephalotes atratus workers (hymenoptera: Formicidae). Journal of Experimental Biology 209(9), 1777–1783 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. 59.
    Young, B.A., Lee, C.E., Daley, K.M.: On a flap and a foot: Aerial locomotion in the “flying” gecko, ptychozoon kuhli. Journal of Herpetology 36(3), 412–418 (2002)Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    Zufferey, J.C., Floreano, D.: Fly-inspired visual steering of an ultralight indoor aircraft. IEEE Transactions on Robotics 22, 137–146 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mirko Kovač
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jean-Christophe Zufferey
    • 1
  • Dario Floreano
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Intelligent SystemsEPFLLausanneSwitzerland

Personalised recommendations