The cheetah’s aerodynamic braking tail allows it to exhibit tremendous precision and agility at high speeds. Engineers took inspiration from natural design when creating a robot.
Cheetahs exhibit tremendous precision and agility at high speeds, thanks in part to their tail. Translating this performance into robots will allow them to navigate natural terrain more easily. However, adding a tail to the robot has disadvantages such as increased mass, high inertia, and higher energy cost to power the machine.
Researchers at the Robotics Lab at Carnegie Mellon University have partnered with the University of Cape Town to find ways to overcome these challenges, inspired by the cheetah’s tail. The results are published in the IEEE Transactions on Robotics.
The predator’s light fluffy tail acts as a kind of parachute. Most robotic tails have high inertia, but the cheetah manages to keep it low. Inertia is a physical property that describes an object’s resistance to changes in motion. The tails of cheetahs use aerodynamic drag to achieve high forces without much inertia.
Traditionally, engineers have used inertial tails in robotics. However, research has shown that aerodynamics are not only preferable because of their unique qualities, but are also much lighter. This means that the “tailed” robot will be much more maneuverable and consume less energy.
In general, the authors of the article note that a robot with a tail, for example, accelerates faster than a robot without it, despite the increase in mass. This means that the robot has better control over its movements – slowing down, accelerating or turning.
“The tails help stabilize the robot, which is very important when it is performing difficult maneuvers. We believe that increasing the maneuverability of robots will help our robots better help people outside the laboratory, ”the study authors emphasize.