Introduction

A motion system provides a robot with the capability of moving. Ground robots typically use wheels and tracks, like most human-made moving machines. In water and air the mainstream is also following the “traditional” human-made motion systems. However, some robots imitate nature. Typical biomimetic motion systems include, for example, walking, crawling, fish-like swimming, and full rolling. ATL has an exceptionally wide experience of different motion systems, which have also been validated with functional prototypes. A hydraulic walking robot, a ball-shaped rolling robot, 10 diving ball robots, a rowing robot, and a wheeled robot are examples of robots which have been used to conduct research into outdoor robotics. Biomimics has continuously been considered in robotics design, especially in sensor and locomotion systems. In locomotion good examples are the MECANT walking machine (insect), the ROLLO ball robot and ESTEC tumbleweed (tumbleweed), the SUBMAR diving robot society (plankton, ants), the RR rowing robot (fish), and the wheel-legged hybrid HYBTOR (elephant walker, “rolking”).

In most applications the traditional solutions are definitely the most useful ones, because of their simplicity and adequate performance. However, in some applications the innovative combinations of traditional technologies or novel biologically inspired systems will generate clear benefits. A good example is “rolking” - combined walking and rolling, which provides better mobility than walking, wheels, or tracks, especially in very soft surfaces such as deep snow, sand, or mud. Dynamic walking would provide the benefits of walking, with remarkably lower energy and power consumption. A common denominator for these systems is the need for high intelligence motion control and extremely good perception of the environment and what is ahead of them.

The research can be divided into two main areas: hybrid systems and biologically-inspired novel systems. Hybrid systems include combinations of traditional motion systems improved with intelligent control. Typical examples are multi-wheel (or track) systems with wheel-specific drive and steering control, rolking, rowing, static walking technology, etc. Biologically-inspired novel systems include ideas from nature. Typical examples are rolling systems, floating systems, jumpers, dynamic walkers, fishlike swimmers, etc.