The Italian Institute of Technology has achieved an incredible feat of robotics. It has constructed a four-legged robot that is capable of pulling a 3,300-kilogram (7,275-pound) airplane over 10 meters (33 feet) at Genoa’s airport.
The robot called HyQReal is the latest in a series of quadruped hydraulic robots the research center has been developing since 2007. The latest version has complete power autonomy, wireless communication, as well as higher reliability and energy efficiency. It has two onboard computers (one for seeing and the other for control) and a skin made of Kevlar, glass fiber, and plastic. It also has rubber feet to increase traction on the ground.
The goal for the HyQ series is to construct four-legged robots that can be deployed in areas where traditional vehicles have difficulty maneuvering. HyQ robots are designed to be used in disaster response situations, such as fires and earthquakes. It could also be employed in the decommissioning and inspection of facilities, as well as agricultural work.
"Pulling a plane allowed us to demonstrate the robot's strength, power-autonomy and the optimized design. We wanted to achieve something that has never been done before, and we succeeded last week" Claudio Semini, project leader at IIT's Dynamic Legged Systems lab, said in a statement.
The robot is the size of a desk and weighs 130 kilograms (286 pounds). That means it can pull something over 25 times its weight. It was designed in collaboration with Moog Inc, using their Integrated Smart Actuators to help control and move the mechanics of HyQReal. These components are almost completely sealed, making the robot both dust- and water-resistant. From torrential rain to a dust storm, it should be able to withstand the elements.
HyQReal is equipped with a hefty battery that's estimated to last for up to two hours, but it has not been tested yet. Another feature that's not been tested is its ability to recover after a fall. There is also the possibility of equipping the robot with an arm (similar to the Boston Dynamics quadruped) to increase its independence in emergency response situations. While the ability of HyQReal is certainly impressive, it is far from a finished product.