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Meet Israel’s new amphibious robot: AmphiSTAR

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Designed by researchers at Ben-Gurion University, this new high-speed amphibious robot that swims, runs on top of water at high speeds and crawls on difficult terrain

By ILANIT CHERNICK

The way in which amphibians, reptiles and cockroaches are able to move, especially in and on water, has fascinated scientists and researchers for years. 

Inspired by these crawling creatures, researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) have built a new high-speed amphibious robot that swims, runs on top of water at high speeds and crawls on difficult terrain.

According to Dr. David Zarrouk the director of the Bioinspired and Medical Robotics Laboratory in BGU’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, the mechanical design of the AmphiSTAR “uses a sprawling mechanism inspired by cockroaches, and it is designed to run on water at high speeds like the basilisk lizard.”

Addressing what fields it will help in, Zarrouk and his graduate student Avi Cohen said that they “envision that AmphiSTAR can be used for agricultural, search and rescue and excavation applications, where both crawling and swimming are required.”

Featured Image: The AmphiSTAR robot, which was inspired by the way reptiles and cockroaches move. (Credit: Ben-Gurion University)

The palm-size AmphiSTAR, part of the family of STAR robots developed at Zarrouk’s lab, “is a wheeled robot fitted with four propellers underneath whose axes can be tilted using the sprawl mechanism.” 

The propellers, he said, “act as wheels over ground and as fins to propel the robot over water while swimming and running on water at high speeds of 1.5 m/s.” 

The robot also has two air tanks, which gives it the ability it to float and “transition smoothly between high speeds when hovering on water to lower speeds swimming, and from crawling to swimming and vice versa.”

According to the duo, the newly-designed robot is also able to crawl on and over gravel, grass and concrete at the same speed of the original STAR robot and can reach speeds of 3.6 m/s (3.3 mph).

Discussing what the future holds, Zarrouk concluded that their “future research will focus on the scalability of the robot and on underwater swimming.”

The robot, its design and its control system were recently presented virtually at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems.

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