Using two hook-like claws, a motor and a tail that swings like a pendulum from a cuckoo clock, the ROCR Oscillating Climbing Robot is the first robot designed to climb efficiently and move like a human rock climbers or an ape swinging through trees. The video below explains how it works.
Developed by University of Utah mechanical engineer William Provancher and colleagues, the robot features a small motor which drives the robot’s tail and a curved stabilizer bar attached to the upper body. The upper body also has two small, steel, hook-like claws to sink into a carpeted wall as the robot climbs. Without the stabilizer, ROCR’s claws tended to move away from the wall as it climbed and it fell. The motor drives a gear at the top of the tail, causing the tail to swing back and forth, which propels the robot upward. A battery is at the end of the tail and provides the mass that is necessary to swing the robot upward.
“While prior climbing robots have focused on issues such as speed, adhering to the wall, and deciding how and where to move, ROCR is the first to focus on climbing efficiently,” Provancher says.
A previous design of a climbing robot climbed about four times quicker than ROCR, which can climb at 6.2 inches per second, but ROCR achieved 20 percent efficiency in climbing tests, “which is relatively impressive given that a car’s engine is approximately 25 percent efficient,” Provancher says. It’s microcomputer, sensors and power electronics allow it to execute the required tail motions to make it climb autonomously.
The acronym ROCR, by the way,, is a self-referential one, meaning ROCR is an Oscillating Climbing Robot. It has potential for future use in surveillance, nuclear power plant inspection, sand-blasting away graffiti, and industrial maintenance.