Limbless Locomotion: Learning to Crawl with a Snake Robot

Kevin Dowling
doctoral dissertation, tech. report CMU-RI-TR-97-48, Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, December, 1997


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Abstract
Snake robots that learn to locomote

Robots can locomote using body motions; not wheels or legs. Natural analogues, such as snakes, although capable of such locomotion, are understood only in a qualitative sense and the detailed mechanics, sensing and control of snake motions are not well understood.

Historically, mobile vehicles for terrestrial use have either been wheeled, tracked or legged. Prior art reveals several serpentine locomotor efforts, but there is little in the way of practical mechanisms and flexible control for limbless locomoting devices. Those mechanisms that exist in the laboratory exhibit only the rough features of natural limbless locomotors such as snakes.

The motivation for this work stems from environments where traditional machines are precluded due to size or shape and where appendages such as wheels or legs cause entrapment or failure. Example environments include tight spaces, long narrow interior traverses, and movement over loose materials and terrains. Several applications, including industrial inspection and exploration of hazardous environments, compel serpentine robots.

This research develops a general framework for teaching a complex electromechanical robot to become mobile where sequences of body motions alone provide progression. The framework incorporates a learning technique, physical modeling, metrics for evaluation, and the transfer of results to a snake-like mobile robot. The mechanism and control of a 20 degree of freedom snake robot is described and multiple gaits are demonstrated including novel non-biological gaits. This research furthers the design and control of limbless robots.


Notes
Sponsor: NASA
Grant ID: N00014-95-1-0591, IRI-9224521
Number of pages: 150

Text Reference
Kevin Dowling, "Limbless Locomotion: Learning to Crawl with a Snake Robot," doctoral dissertation, tech. report CMU-RI-TR-97-48, Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, December, 1997

BibTeX Reference
@phdthesis{Dowling_1997_460,
   author = "Kevin Dowling",
   title = "Limbless Locomotion: Learning to Crawl with a Snake Robot",
   booktitle = "",
   school = "Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University",
   month = "December",
   year = "1997",
   number= "CMU-RI-TR-97-48",
   address= "Pittsburgh, PA",
}