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Ravi Vaidyanathan

Assistant Professor

Systems Engineering

Naval Postgraduate School

Ravi in Peru


Research Projects

Biologically Inspired Robotics

Research Synopsis

The study of animal movement and functional morphology can provide a wealth of inspiration for the construction of mobile and medical robotic devices. Robotic design based on neuromechanics can lead to very significant improvements in mobility and control autonomy. We have been involved in the study, simulation, and design of a range of biologically inspired robots for advanced mobility. Research thrusts include:


Multi-Mode Morphing (Flying/Crawling) Robots


Richard Bachmann, President, BioRobots, LLC

Professor Peter Ifju, Director, Micro Air Vehicle Laboratory, University of Florida

Professor Roger Quinn, Director, Biologically Inspired Robotics Laboratory, Case Western Reserve University

Research Synopsis: While extensive work has been performed with regard micro air vehicles (MAVs), the additional constraints faced by a microrobot tasked with aerial and terrestrial locomotion has yet to be fully addressed.  In 2004, our team initiated work to develop a Morphing Micro Air and Land Vehicle (MMALV) based on passive mechanics of cockroach and bat locomotion. Presently, three prototypes have been constructed based on studies of the mechanics of thin, undercambered, bat-like wings and abstracted cockroach ground locomotion mechanisms.  The current robot is capable of flying and walking, and successfully transitions between locomotion modalities. An insect-like wing retraction mechanism has also been designed.  Future efforts will be centered on neural control system to achieve aerial and terrestrial autonomy.



Program summary: Summary of Morphing Micro Air and Land Vehicle (MMALV) status and future goals (pdf file)

Video Download: Launch, flight, and crawling locomotion of the current MMALV prototype (11 meg file)

Video Download: MMALV autonomous take-off (from a rooftop, 3meg wmv file)

Video Download: MMALV searching for an improvised explosive device (IED) in the field, including footage from an on-board camera (also pictured above, 13 meg file)

Video Download: Narrated video for the 2006 IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (30 meg)

Video Download: MMALV autonomously controlling itself to attain flight after launch.  Note that there is no manual piloting whatsoever in this flight (27 meg wmv file)

Amphibious (highly mobile) Robots


Professor Roger Quinn, Director, Biologically Inspired Robotics Laboratory, Case Western Reserve University

Research Synopsis: The capability of robotic platforms to transition between locomotion modes in aquatic and terrestrial settings has yet to be achieved in robotics today. The study of animal locomotion mechanisms, cockroaches in particular, can provide specific inspiration to address these demands.  Our research team is currently involved in on-going efforts to create an autonomous, highly mobile amphibious robot.  A water-resistant amphibious prototype design, based on abstracted cockroach locomotion principals centered on joint compliance (originally developed in the laboratory of Professor Roger Quinn at Case Western Reserve University), has been completed. Through extensive field-testing, mechanisms have been isolated to allow for both underwater and terrestrial locomotion. Complementary work is presently underway for fully autonomous functionality.


Video Download: First generation robot prototype moving over loose soil (54 meg file)

Video Download: First generation robot climbing stairs (5 meg file)

Video Download: Whegs II Robot (design precursor to amphibious robot, 45 meg file)

Underwater (fluid skeleton) Robotics


Professor Hillel Chiel, Department of Biology, Case Western Reserve University

Research Synopsis: Biological organisms in possession of a body connected in series joint units forming a chord-like (hyper-redundant) structure are capable of motions of a very diverse nature.  The structure of this body type with a fluid skeleton (exhibited by worms, jellyfish, and slugs) that is analogous to purely muscular structures (such as the tongue) found in vertebrates provides even greater flexibility in functional utility. Our laboratory has been involved with the simulation, mechanical modeling and neural control of such muscle-like structures (muscular hydrostats), and implementing them in hyper-redundant robots.  Specifically, we have designed and fabricated a robot based on inch worm motion which successfully duplicated the mechanics predicted in a model based on a lizard tongue. Future work involves snake-like microrobots, and minimally invasive medical robots. 


Video Download: Underwater hydrostatic robot crawling (20 meg file)



Ravi Vaidyanathan Updated January 2006