Novel Legged Robots with a Serpentine Robotic Tail: Modeling, Control, and Implementations

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Virginia Tech


Tails are frequently utilized by animals to enhance their motion agility, dexterity, and versatility, such as a cheetah using its tail to change its body orientation while its legs are all off the ground and a monkey using its tail to stabilize its locomotion on branches. However, limited by technology and application scenarios, most existing legged robots do not include a robotic tail on board. This research aims to explore the possibilities of adding this missing part on legged robots and investigate the tail's functionalities on enhancing the agility, dexterity, and versatility of legged locomotion. In particular, this research focuses on animal-like serpentine tail structure, due to its larger workspace and higher dexterity. The overall research approach consists of two branches: a theoretical branch that focuses on dynamic modeling, analysis, and control of the legged robots with a serpentine robotic tail; and an empirical branch that focuses on hardware development and experiments of novel serpentine robotic tails and novel legged robots with tail. More specifically, the theoretical work includes modeling and control of a general quadruped platform and a general biped platform, equipped with one of the two general serpentine tail structures: an articulated-structure tail or a continuum-structure tail. Virtual work principle-based formulation was used to formulate the dynamic model. Both classic feedback linearization-based control and optimization-based control were used to coordinate the leg motions and the tail motion. Comparative studies on different tail structures as well as numerical analyses on robotic locomotion were performed to investigate the dynamic effects of serpentine robotic tails. The empirical work includes the developments and experiments of two novel serpentine robotic tail mechanisms and one first-of-its-kind quadruped robot ("VT Lemur") equipped with a serpentine robotic tail. To develop these novel robots, a systematic approach based on dynamic analysis was used. Various experiments were then conducted using the robot hardware. Both the theoretical and empirical results showed that the serpentine robotic tail has significant effects on enhancing the agility, dexterity, and versatility of legged robot motion.



Serpentine Robotic Tail, Legged Robot, Dynamics and Control, Motion Planning, Bioinspiration and Biomimetics