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Towards Snakes and Snake Robots on Grannular Terrain

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Final rept. 1 Sep 2-11-31 May 2012

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Autonomous ground vehicles are becoming more and more prevalent in today s military. Despite the success of various EOD vehicles, the use of ground vehicles is quite limited by their mobility. Current vehicles have trouble on granular surfaces such as sand. Moreover, conventional vehicles are limited to relatively flat terrains. The proposed work seeks to address both of these short comings by looking at sidewinding snakes to model and control the motion of snake robots undergoing a sidewinding gait. Snake robot have the potential of threading through tightly packed volumes accessing locations that people and conventional machinery otherwise cannot. The benefit to the military is that we gain a deeper understanding of how mobile mechanisms function on sandy terrains, and moreover, access to regions that conventional vehicles could not otherwise reach. We chose to examine sidewinding because it is an efficient gait employed by several species of snakes. This form of locomotion is also particularly useful for snake robots, as it involves no sliding contact between the snake and the terrain such as appears in e.g., lateral undulation, and therefore does not require that the snake robot have wheels or other means of providing different friction coefficients in the lateral and longitudinal directions. This project brings together two researchers, Choset whose group has developed principled work in mechanics and Goldman, whose group has studied and modeled lizards maneuvering in granular media. Goldman has recently begun studying sidewinders, making this an ideal collaboration for the two PIs. While our goal is to create fully functional robots, we also believe that the proposed work will develop a deeper understanding of how biological systems locomote.

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  • Cybernetics
  • Surface Transportation and Equipment

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