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Rosphere: a spherical robot that can tackle rough terrain

21 June 2013

Researchers have developed a robot prototype which makes use of an unconventional motion mode to conduct missions across rough terrain.

Rosphere at work in a crop of maize
Rosphere at work in a crop of maize

The Robotics and Cybernetics Research Group from the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM) has special interest in developing robots that are able to negotiate uneven ground. The result of this work is Rosphere, a robot without wheels or legs - just a single spherical form that is able to roll over the terrain while remaining inherently stable.

The working principle of UPM's spherical robot is provided by a mechatronic system that induces motion in a controlled manner. The Rosphere prototype, for example, has a driven pendulum system with two independent axes of motion under electronic control, providing forward motion and guidance.

After the development of the test platforms and validation of its control systems, the robot was tested to assess its real world applications potential.

Rosphere's driven pendulum system provides forward motion and guidance
Rosphere's driven pendulum system provides forward motion and guidance

Researchers first used Rosphere to monitor rows of crops. Its shape proved particularly suitable for this application as it simply rolls along the ground between the rows of crops in order to gather information.

The robot was also tested on shared spaces with people in order to verify that it could safely interact without being a threat to people. Researchers selected as a prototype scenario the Parque del Retiro of Madrid. 

The researchers are now working to improve Rosphere's autonomous navigation capabilities and its mechanical strength in order to widen its application fields.

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