A new robot can leap into the air and spring off a wall or jump multiple consecutive times to achieve a record combined jumping height.

Salto (for saltatorial locomotion on terrain obstacles) is the result of research conducted by Duncan Haldane, a robotics Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Berkeley, and reported in the journal Science Robotics. Salto’s agility could make him a useful tool for searching rubble in search and rescue missions.

The galago can achieve a combined jumping height of 8.5 meters. The galago can achieve a combined jumping height of 8.5 meters. Haldane and his colleagues in Berkeley’s Biomimetic Millisystems Lab studied the galago, a primate that is the animal kingdom’s highest jumper. The galago can achieve a combined jumping height – 8.5 meters – after five jumps in four seconds. The key to the animal’s jumps is its ability to store energy in its tendons, using an animal version of power modulation that Haldane adapted for Salto.

Salto’s energy derives from a motor-driven spring. The spring is loaded when its legs are crouched, much as the galago’s crouched legs store energy. The 26-centimeters-tall robot has achieved 78% of the galago’s vertical jump ability. Salto’s maximum height is 1.008 meters and an average height gain of 1.21 meters for the wall jump.

To compare Salto’s vertical agility to animal jumpers, the researchers developed an agility metric. The metric takes the vertical height of a jump at Earth gravity and multiplies it by the number of times the jumper – animal or robotic – can repeat the jump. The galago’s jumping agility is 2.24 meters per second. Salto clocks in at 1.71 meters per second.

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