In this article, we are going to discuss flying humanoid robot. Yes, a flying robot. Getting from point A to point B has become a huge difficulty as robots have slowly expanded their operations out of the controlled surroundings of research labs and into the chaos of real-world architectural infrastructure — take stairs, for example.
As a result, roboticists have devised a variety of solutions, like adding rotors to the robot so that it can helicopter over obstructions or, in the case of Boston Dynamics, performing backflips that would give Simone Biles pause. Then there’s Daniele Pucci, the head of the Italian Institute of Technology’s Artificial and Mechanical Intelligence lab, who has strapped a fully functional jetpack akin to what Richard Browning developed onto the back of an iRonCub synthetic humanoid in the hopes of eventually blasting it into space.
After seeing Age of Ultron for the first time, you’d think we’d learned our lesson about the dangers of building aerial flying humanoid robots, but Pucci’s team believes that such systems could one day act as first responders to the roughly 300 natural disasters that kill around 90,000 people worldwide each year. For more than a decade, we’ve seen a plethora of disaster response bots emerge from labs – some humanoid, some not so much — with different degrees of success.
When it comes to disaster response, humanoid robots have an advantage over both more esoteric constructions and regular UAVs since they can more readily manipulate an environment that is already designed for human usage. When a natural disaster strikes, however, much of that human-centric infrastructure may be damaged or left impassable, negating many of the humanoid robot’s early benefits. Pucci’s team, on the other hand, can take advantage of the greatest features of both technologies by merging a humanoid design with the capacity to fly.
“Aerial Humanoid Robotics brings aerial manipulation and humanoid robotics together in one system.” Aerial humanoid robots can thus overcome the limitations of terrestrial mobility of aerial manipulators and expand humanoid robot locomotion skills to the flying situation.
“Aerial humanoid robotics extends aerial manipulation to a more robust and energy efficient level. In fact, aerial manipulation is often exemplified by quadrotors equipped with a robotic arm,” Pucci told IEEE Spectrum. “These robots can’t move around by means of contact forces with the environment, and they often struggle with flying in windy environments while manipulating an object, requiring precise position control for accomplishing manipulation tasks. So the extra hand of a flying humanoid robot could establish a contact point between the robot and the environment, thus making the robot position control simpler and more robust.”
“I truly believe that aerial humanoid robotics can be used as a test-bed for actuated flying exoskeletons for human beings,” he continued. “The recent successful story of Richard Browning shows the engineering feasibility of these futuristic actuated exoskeletons. However, the journey in front of us is still long, and we can use flying humanoid robots to boost this journey and avoid lots of tests on humans.”
Pucci’s most recent study, “Momentum-Based Extended Kalman Filter for Thrust Estimation on Flying Multibody Robots,” is slated for publication in the January issue of IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters.