Robotics Researchers Develop First Leech-Like Climbing Robot

Robotics

An international team of robotics researchers has created the first flexible, wall-climbing robot inspired by the leech / Photo by: SFU - Communications & Marketing via Flickr

 

An international team of robotics researchers has created the first flexible, wall-climbing robot inspired by one of the most famous suckers in nature: the leech.

Dubbed as the LEeCH, which stands for Longitudinally Extensible Continuum-robot inspired by Hirudinea, the robot can vertically climb surfaces in any given direction and even move from one side of the wall to another, New Atlas reports.

According to the researchers, LEeCH is a "world's first achievement in developing [a] soft and flexible robot that is capable of free movement on a wall."

New Atlas states that the robot was particularly inspired by the land leech, which is excellent at climbing with the natural suction cups found at both ends of its body. Leeches can survive falls even from great heights, thanks to their small, soft, and light physique—all of which are admirable features for a flexible wall-climbing robot.

While inspired by one of nature's suckers, lead author Ayato Kanada said the idea for the robot came up to him while he was taking a shower.

"The shower hose went wild as if it had a life when I inadvertently turned on the faucet at maximum," Ayato explained. "Then an idea occurred to me that if I could manipulate a hose, I might be able to make a robot with [the] dynamic movement of [a] living creature."

Aside from its wall-climbing capabilities, the LEeCh is also lightweight and flexible and can stretch its body to a greater length. The robot's body includes hoses. These hoses are made to move with a gear that connects to surface grooves, producing a rack-and-pinion mechanism. It also has suction cups that are controlled using vacuum pumps.

Possible applications for this free-moving, flexible robot include inspection and maintenance of buildings, as well as search-and-rescue missions at disaster locations. The latter application, however, would require LEeCH to navigate uneven terrain—a task it is unable to do now as it's stuck on flat surfaces.