The spherical robot dubbed Gimball bumps into and ricochets off of obstacles, moving through the most unpredictable, chaotic environments without the need for fragile detection sensors, the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne reported Wednesday.
Gimball is protected by a spherical, elastic cage that enables it to absorb and rebound from shocks while keeping its balance with a gyroscopic stabilization system, the engineers said.
Powered by twin propellers and steered by fins, Gimball can stay on course despite its numerous collisions, they said.
"The idea was for the robot's body to stay balanced after a collision, so that it can keep to its trajectory," doctoral student Adrien Briod said. "Its predecessors, which weren't stabilized, tended to take off in random directions after impact."
Gimball's resiliency to damage in collisions was inspired by insects, the researches said.
"Flying insects handle collisions quite well," Briod said. "For them, shocks aren't really accidents, because they're designed to bounce back from them. This is the direction we decided to take in our research."
When tested in the forests near Lausanne Gimball performed perfectly, the researchers said, careening from tree trunk to tree trunk but staying on course.