DARPA develops a transformable robot “α-WaLTR”

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The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is a US agency working on the fields of researching new technologies. They primarily focus on the development of advanced technologies that could be used effectively for military operations. Now the research team is developing mobile robots to leverage military applications.

The DARPA in collaboration with Dr.Kiju lee from Texas A&M University has started working on developing self-sufficient Robots for military operations. They are creating a mobile robot that will take decisions on its own without human intervention. The robots will decide whether to switch between Wheels or legs while crossing the terrains. It will adapt the travel mode itself based on the types of paths. Such kinds of robots are designed to travel alone on the grounds of urban military space. Mobile robots are capable of traveling alone without seeking human help or instructions.

Ms. Lee has been awarded by the DARPA Offensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program for developing a mixed-reality swarm simulator and has been exhibited at OFFSET’s third field experiment. Recently Mr. Lee has got an opportunity to work with the DARPA team. He has been allotted OFFSET Sprint- 5 to improvise the physical testbeds for the robots. The main aim is to create a new unmanned ground vehicle. They should be versatile in nature to suit urban military operations.

The research team is working meticulously in developing the self-sufficient robot. As a result, the team is able to create a new transformable robot known as (α-WaLTR). This robot will transform itself into a wheel or leg mode depending on various surfaces. For example, the robot will move with its leg while on stairs and wheels on the ground surfaces. Depending on the travel surfaces the robot will make impulsive decisions on its own without human intervention.

Comparing both modes of locomotion, Legged is considered to be more versatile in nature. Though it seems better than the wheel model, it undergoes some complexities in terms of mechanical, internal structure, and control. Lee and her team have designed a testbed where the robot will be able to switch between two locomotion modes without any difficulties or any external support.

On the other hand, the team is working on the prototypes and the transformable robot is expected to launch at OFFSET FX5. The official launch is planned for Feb 2021 as per the report.

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