This article was originally published on March 28, 2012.
Boston Dynamics released a video of their incredible jumping robot called the Sand Flea. It’s an 11-lb robot that drives like an RC car, but can jump into the air. The Sand Flea robot is funded by the US Army’s Rapid Equipping Force.
It moves on four wheels like a regular robot, but when faced with a vertical obstacle can be propelled up to 30 feet in the air. Sand Flea has its origins in the Precision Urban Hopper which was born of a collaboration between Sandia National Labs and Boston Dynamics in 2009.
An on-board stabilization system keeps the robot orientated during flight to help control landings and to improve the view from the on-board video. On-board video system brings back visual data to its remote operator, making it perfect for special ops surveillance missions.
Now finally Boston Dynamics just posted a new video of Sand Flea in action.
Instead of jumping while moving (like the Precision Urban Hopper did), Sand Flea stops, rears back, and launches itself into the air. Sand Flea has no trouble clearing a 10-meter obstacle and it’s accurate enough that you can operate it to jump through a window two stories up and it’ll do it.
The piston (which looks as if it fires out the back of the robot, as opposed to downwards) is powered by CO2 and Sand Flea can make 25 jumps in a row before it needs to juice itself up again. Sand Flea is intended to be used in Afghanistan to hop over walls, take a look around, and hop right back home again.
The tricky bit to all this is keeping Sand Flea oriented as steadily as possible during the jump. The idea is that the robot will be able to send back useful video while in midair, which a haphazard aerial tumble would preclude.
Sand Flea’s new launch system requires it to stop, aim, and rear up before liftoff (something it can do as many as 25 times before requiring a re-up on its CO2).