We've seen quite a few interesting robot designs over the years that allow adventurous machines to negotiate difficult terrain, but few with the distinct style of the Velox robot from New York engineering firm Pliant Energy Systems. Using a novel undulating propulsion system, the bot is able to efficiently glide through the water, over rough land and has recently become adept at the art of ice-skating.
The unique capabilities of the Velox robot actually stem from research into renewable energy, where CEO of Pliant Energy Systems Pietro Filardo sought to use his knowledge in marine biology to harness wave and tidal energy. This led him to explore flexible biomorphic devices that could not only capture energy, but be used to propel vehicles through marine environments.
So instead of rigid, spinning blades that might power a submarine, Velox relies on a flexible fin that undulates to drive the robot forward. An onboard CPU distributes power to actuators that drive the wave motions in the long fins, which give the robot a strong resemblance to a stingray as it swims through the water.
And when it approaches dry land, the amphibious robot is able to transition to a ground rover by swiveling those fins 90 degrees to prop itself up and move over solid surfaces. According to the company, the robot is capable of handling sand, snow, pebbles and paving and as of recently, solid ice.
Filardo describes Velox as a proof-of-concept in its current state, but notes that the mobility options it possesses give it a wide range of potential applications. It could be used to carry medical supplies or ammunition through the water to troops on the beach as illustrated in the image above, or given its newfound ice-skating abilities, could be deployed as part of science missions in the polar regions.
You can see it scoot across the ice in this video:
Source: Pliant Energy Systems
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