Bounding robo-grasshoppers offer a high-tech solution to tricky mountain rescues.
What's the world coming to when even Saint Bernards are being outsourced!
This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science
And on what they call progress in Switzerland.
Engineers at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale have built tiny jumping robots the size of grasshoppers--able to leap tall lawnmowers in a single bound.
In fact, the bionic bugs can leap one and a half YARDS in a single bound-- that's twenty seven TIMES their body size--and bound three hundred twenty times on a single battery.
The engineers styled the bots on what gives REAL grasshoppers their spring. Grasshoppers joints have what's called "elastic" energy storage. Their knees store up energy, and then release it quickly--resulting in powerful jumps.
So, why build a better robot grasshopper?
Well, the Swiss are really into mountain rescue -- what with all their steep terrain and avalanches. The grasshoppers, armed with sensors and tiny cameras, can hop their way into places where humans, wheeled robots--or even a Saint Bernard--can't possibly reach.
Of course there's no substitute for the brandy flask. But the Swiss engineers are working even on that! It's a very tiny version.