Meet LEO: Tiny 2.5ft-tall drone-robot hybrid can use its two legs to navigate a slackline and skateboard, or switch on its thrusters to fly through the air

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  • Leonardo (Legs Onboard Drone) is a 2.5 ft tall robot with bipedal legs and thrusters
  • It is able to walk on two legs with enough dexterity to slackline and skateboard, but can also fly through the air
  • The team says the robot could one day be used for drones, robots or humans to perform tasks currently too difficult for humans – including working in dangerous and difficult environments.

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The idea of ​​a robot that can navigate a slackline, skateboard and fly may sound like a science fiction concept.

But such a bot is very real, in the form of the Leonardo, or Legs Onboard Drone – a bipedal robot with drone-like thrusters for stability.

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Briefly known as LEO, it was built by engineers at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena from parts of robots and drones found around the laboratory.

As well as improving stability when running on a tightrope, propeller-based thrusters allow the 2.5-foot-long bot to take off and fly in the air.

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The team says that LEO may someday apply its conquests of land and air to robotic missions currently difficult for ground or air-based robots and drones.

As well as slacklining and skateboarding, the team says the robot could one day be used to perform tasks currently very difficult for drones, robots or humans – including working in dangerous and difficult environments.

The team has not said when LEO will be available for commercial use, or how much it will cost, as it is still in the research and development phase.

Briefly known as LEO, it was built by engineers at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena from parts of robots and drones found around the laboratory.

Briefly known as LEO, it was built by engineers at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena from parts of robots and drones found around the laboratory.

It was developed by engineers at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena from parts found around the lab, including a two-legged robot and drone.

It was developed by engineers at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena from parts found around the lab, including a two-legged robot and drone.

How does Leo move?

The Leonardo – Legs Onboard Drone – stands 2.5 feet tall and weighs 5.6lb.

It is equipped with two legs with three active joints, as well as four propeller thrusters mounted at an angle to the robot’s shoulders.

When a person walks, they adjust the position and orientation of their feet so that their center of mass moves forward, while maintaining body balance.

The LEO also moves this way, as the propellers ensure that the robot is upright while it is moving.

Leg actuators change the position of the legs so that the robot’s center of mass is moved forward through the use of synchronized walking and flight.

In flight, the robot uses its propeller alone and flies like a drone, completely ignoring the legs.

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Leonardo is a 5.6lb, multi-jointed bipedal robot that was inspired by a multitude of birds and insects that are able to switch instinctively between walking, flying or even crawling on the ground.

‘We took inspiration from nature. Think about how birds might be expected to flap and navigate telephone lines,’ says corresponding author Soon-Jo Chung.

‘A complex but intriguing behavior occurs when birds move between walking and flying. We wanted to understand and learn from it.

“There are similarities with how a person wearing a jet suit controls their legs and feet during landing or taking off and how LEO uses distributed propeller-based thrusters and synchronized control of leg joints,” says Chung.

‘We wanted to study the interface of walking and flying from the point of view of maneuverability and control.’

‘Perhaps the most suitable applications for LEO would be those that involve physical interaction with structures at high altitudes,’ the authors said.

These activities, such as high-voltage line inspections, or repair of parts of a space station, are usually highly hazardous to human workers, and require many types of land and air robots – but LEOs work alone. Can do.

Bipedal robots tackle real-world terrain, including jumping, running, and climbing, using motion similar to humans.

The LEO, a professional slackliner, is a cross between a drone and a robot, which can use two legs to traverse a thin wire before it flies back to the ground

The LEO, a professional slackliner, is a cross between a drone and a robot, which can use two legs to traverse a thin wire before it flies back to the ground

However, they are often stymied by particularly rough terrain where flying robots come in, as they navigate by avoiding it altogether – going overhead.

Despite their advantages, flying robots have their own problems, with notably high energy consumption, and limits on payload capacity due to weight.

Co-lead author Koonam Kim said, ‘Robots with multimodal locomotion capability are able to move more efficiently in challenging environments than conventional robots, switching appropriately between their available means.

‘In…

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