Robotrek: A Flexible-Track Autonomous Robot for Urban Unstructured Environments

Subject: Robotrek: A Flexible-Track Autonomous Robot for Urban Unstructured Environments
Labs: Robot Navigation Laboratory
Faculties: Faculty of Mechanical Engineering
  Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Researchers: Associate Professor Ronie Navon and Associate Professor Elon Rimon


The mobility of autonomous mobile robots over complex urban terrains such as stairways, sidewalks, and outdoor paths is a major challenge in the field of robotics. This proposal seeks to develop a novel flexible track robot, Robotrek, capable of safely carrying 10-30 kg loads over virtually any three-dimensional terrain. The robot, is a closed chain of hinged rigid links that can freely adapt its shape to the underlying terrain. While the chain's bottom part adapts to the terrain's geometry, its top part flows through an innovative rigid frame "riding" the chain's rear part. A single powerful motor mounted on the rigid frame drives the entire chain based on a principle from kinematics of mechanisms theory. The resulting robot provides huge traction with any shaped terrain while carrying payloads for myriad civilian and military applications.

 Robotrek represents a fundamental breakthrough and offers significant advantages over existing robots: a) It is the only robot that can fully adapt its shape to the underlying terrain, thus providing perfect traction and anti-slippage safety. b) It is operated by a single powerful motor, thus providing a simple mechanical structure that can reliably operate during autonomous missions. c) It is operated in open loop fashion- the chain's links locally adapt to the terrain's shape during locomotion, without any need for complex centralized control and global sensory feedback. d) Energy "bonus:" heavier loads mounted on the chain's top frame provide better ground traction and thus improve locomotion safety.