Sand Flea literally leaps tall buildings in a single bound

The hidden abilities of this robot that is no larger than a dinner plate are quite impressive. It doesn’t let an obstacle like a building get in its way. The Sand Flea, like its namesake, posses a remarkable jumping ability. When it encounters a tall obstruction two levers incline the front of the robot and it launches itself up to thirty feet in the air. In the case of a one-story build this means it will end up on the roof, and it’ll do so much quicker and more reliably than any wall climber we’ve seen.

It’s being developed for the US Army by Boston Dynamics, and this isn’t the first time we’ve seen the concept. But the video after the break gives a much better look than the grainy twenty-second clip from last year. Of course they’re not giving up too many details so we have to guess a bit. We’d wager the launching mechanism is a solenoid, but at about eleven pounds you need a lot of juice to get that much of a jump. We suppose it’s also possible that there’s an explosive system like the butane combustion used in a framing nailer. The video summary mentions that there’s a stabilization system to keep the body oriented during flight. That’s got to be a gyroscope. Let us know what you think in the comments.

[Thanks BetaLyte]

Comments

  1. Dave says:

    It looks like it’s something that needs to be recharged. I dont see a single shot that shows 2 launches, even though they could have shown that up on the roof. I’m guessing precharged, compressed air.

  2. Garret says:

    I love the solid ‘pop’ it makes as it rockets itself towards the gods

  3. chrisallick says:

    That is incredible!

  4. Michael says:

    It looks like some motor is used to wind a strong spring, that is then suddenly released

  5. Ben says:

    I see four perfectly good gyroscopes on it right now. It should be able to keep itself oriented during flight just by applying the right acceleration to the proper wheels.

  6. smoketester says:

    I’ll go with a butane powered launch system as well. I’d bet they are using the spinning of the wheels to control flight attitude much like a motorcycle jumper corrects in mid-flight with his throttle.

  7. perhof says:

    Datasheet doesn’t reveal much more about the propulsion but it says:
    Battery: Rechargeable Li-polymer
    Jump Actuator: disposable fuel cartridge
    Endurance: 2 hours, 25 hops

  8. EmptySet35 says:
    • smoketester says:

      Thanks for the link. 25 jumps per CO2 charge is impressive. The need for stable orientation for video during the jump seems to be one objective being met as well. Could fend them off though with a gas powered leaf blower :)

      • Whatnot says:

        Seeing they develop this stuff for the military I would expect the operational version would have some equipment on it, sensors? Camera? Or explosives even, and would be heavier and would not make 25 jumps.
        I wonder if a heavier one could be made to jump equally high come to think of it.

  9. Kuy says:

    It’s a carbon dioxide-powered pneumatic piston, according to IEEE Spectrum. 25 launches before the gas needs to be refilled.

  10. EmptySet35 says:
  11. phizz says:

    So it’s just plain old compressed gas? It seems that you could get far more launches from a combustion system. I’m reminded of that weird Tippmann paintball gun that was able to 25,000 shots from a 16oz propane tank by burning it, where an equivalent volume of CO2 might last 500-800 or so.

    Also, Soviet diesel boots:

  12. Dino says:

    I soooo have to build one of these!

  13. roboman2444 says:

    would love to see a view from a camera mounted on the robot…

  14. naturetm says:

    Looks fun. I wonder if we’ll ever see something like this in the toy department. “Dad, it’s stuck in the tree again!”

  15. n0lkk says:

    First thought no F’in way, then far out.. I’ll be damned. Not very stealthy for use in a war zone as suggested in the spectrum article. I wonder how long it will be for we see a home shop builder duplicate this?

  16. Rigel says:

    Does anybody at hackaday even try anymore?
    From the datasheet on boston dynamics website:
    -Gyro Stabilized
    -Dispoable fuel cartridge for ‘hops’
    -25 hops/cartridge
    -2hr run time

  17. Sweet says:

    A coordinated swarm of Sand Fleas would downright scary !

  18. XOIIO says:

    Holy shit, I want one, thats fucking awesome.

  19. dbear says:

    I, for one, welcome our new robotic overlords!

  20. monster says:

    dude @ 0:48 is gonna get his pubes caught in the lathe

  21. Foo says:

    Downvote for making me sit through 1 min of video zoomed so close I could not enjoy the beauty of the project and only giving me FIVE lousy seconds of video that was not zoomed all the way to kingdom come.

    But other than that A1 project bro, love it.

  22. McGuiver says:

    I can see special forces or EOD using one of these to place C4 in hard to reach places. Imagine it could hop through a window with a satchel charge. It could then hop out and drive away.

    BOOM…Building is cleared.

    Police could use this for flash bangs or tear gas. I could see lots of uses for this.

  23. Neckbeard says:

    I read on the IEEE website a few days ago that the piston is CO2 powered. I know that there isn’t much info to go on but I’m reasonably sure that an enterprizing hacker could easily replicate their results. http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/military-robots/boston-dynamics-sand-flea-demonstrates-astonishing-jumping-skills

  24. wardy says:

    I wonder if these things could be fitted with a detatchable parachute module so you could drop them out of a high altitude plane over the area of operation. That would be very useful for exploring dangerous areas like the Japanese power plants of recent times, without placing humans in jeopardy.

    I assume they wouldn’t survive hitting concrete at terminal velocity without a parachute.

    Anyway I want to see one of these things leap into the open doorway of a passing Blackhawk chopper. :D

    • thisdoug says:

      With the gyroscope and the wheels that can correct for in air orientation, I bet the body could be designed to “float” down slow enough as to not shatter.

      Squirrel suit?

    • thisdoug says:

      With the gyroscope and wheels that can correct for in air orientation I bet that the body could designed to “float” down slow enough as not to shatter on impact.

      Squirrel suit?

  25. WhiteCrane says:

    They can’t just add an on-board pump for refilling a tank? Too much weight?

    • Squidge says:

      Good luck getting to 6-800 odd PSI (assuming Co2 anyways) with a pump that small.

      It would kill the run time too, possibly making any more than 25 jumps worthless.

  26. Willrandship says:

    Well, I don’t think the landing needs to be more stabilized if it handles hitting the ground that well structurally.

  27. Robot says:

    My friend built this :-)

  28. EthanA says:

    I actually saw SandFlea at Boston Dynamics’ booth at the FIRST Robotics Championship in St. Louis last weekend, and I noticed a port on the front of the robot labelled “PROPANE,” so I asked one of the guys working at the booth about it and he said that the cylinder runs on compressed propane. Maybe another version runs on CO2, but the one I saw was clearly propane. I was sad they didn’t do a demo of it :( haha. They were driving RHex, though! very cool…

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