Leonardo the Robot has humanoid legs and drone-like propellers for walking & jumping

“What if we could have a robot that never falls?”

Leonardo is a lightweight walking robot that balances more like a drone – it uses synchronized control of propellers and legged joints. The robot from CalTech, “Legs Onboard Drone” (aka Leonardo) can walk, jump and even fly for short periods of time.

Leonardo the walking – jumping – flying robot. Photo courtesy of Alireza Ramezani, Soon-Jo Chung, and Morteza Gharib.

Alireza Ramezani, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Northeastern, has brought it one step closer with a robot that he helped to build as a postdoctoral researcher at the California Institute of Technology.

The idea is to have a machine that can leverage its legs and the thrusters to, for example, enhance its jumping capability.

Alireza Ramezani

The idea came from watching birds, Ramezani said. Most robotic designs focus exclusively on one type of locomotion, but birds are able to walk, fly, and even run.

Initially, it was developed with the idea of designing explorers—systems that can combine legged mobility and fast aerial mobility to do autonomous explorations.

Alireza Ramezani

Since the thrusters can take the robot’s entire weight, it’s possible that Leonardo will not be not falling over, since it can also fly for a brief period to readjust. Leo will be doing a lot of jumping, with the thrusters significantly augmenting both height and distance, with a multimodal nature that will increase versatility, reliability, and endurance.

“This is the major challenge for legged systems, or even humans: We can stabilize our body, but sometimes we fall,” Ramezani said.

Mr Ramezani has also built a flying robot based on the aerial acrobatics of bats, dubbed Bat Bot, which is another source of inspiration for creating Leonardo.

You can see engineering to perfection in nature, and we can learn a lot … That’s been an inspiration for me in almost all my designs.

Alizera Ramezani
Alireza Ramezani, assistant professor of electrical and chemical engineering. Photo news.northeastern.edu

The ultimate form of demonstration for Leonardo’s designers will be to build two Leonardo robots and then have them play tennis or badminton.

Source articles & videos:

Some robots walk. others fly. he built one that can do both https://news.northeastern.edu/2019/01/22/some-robots-walk-others-fly-he-built-one-that-can-do-both/
Watch a two-legged robot balance and spin thanks to drone propellers https://www.theverge.com/tldr/2019/10/7/20903112/leonardo-drone-bipedal-robot-balance-propellers-video
Caltech Building Agile Humanoid Robot by Combining Legs With Thrusters https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/humanoids/caltech-building-agile-humanoid-robot-by-combining-legs-with-thrusters
LEONARDO Bipedal Robot with Thrusters https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NekTN9bTSS8
Aerospace Robotics and Control at Caltech https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFM2dRJkkzk