The First Flying Humanoid Robot?

Researchers at the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) have recently been investigating the possibility of building flying humanoid robots. Researchers need systems that can correctly measure the intensity of the thrust produced by propellers, which allow them to move through the air, to efficiently regulate the movements of flying robots, objects, or vehicles.

Because thrust forces are difficult to detect directly, they are normally calculated using data from onboard sensors. IIT researchers recently unveiled a new framework for estimating thrust intensities in flying multibody vehicles that lack thrust-measuring devices. This approach, which was discussed in an article published in IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, may eventually aid them in achieving their goal of a flying humanoid robot.

“Our first ideas for constructing a flying humanoid robot surfaced around 2016,” said Daniele Pucci, leader of the Artificial and Mechanical Intelligence group that conducted the research. “The major goal was to design robots that might function in disaster-like circumstances, such as when survivors are trapped within partially wrecked buildings that are impossible to reach due to impending floods and fire.”

The main goal of Pucci and his colleagues’ recent work was to create a robot that can move items, walk on the ground, and fly. Because many humanoid robots can manipulate items as well as move on the ground, the researchers decided to expand a humanoid robot’s capabilities to add flying rather than constructing an altogether new robotic framework.

“Once given the ability to fly, humanoid robots may fly from one structure to another, avoiding debris, fire, and floods,” Pucci explained. “After landing, they may manipulate things to unlock doors and close gas valves, or stroll into buildings to hunt for survivors of a fire or natural disaster.”

Initially, Pucci and his colleagues attempted to give iCub, a well-known humanoid robot developed at IIT, the ability to balance itself on the ground.  After that, they began working on improving the robot’s locomotion abilities so that it could fly and move in the air. ‘Aerial humanoid robotics’ is how the team refers to the field of research they’ve been working on.

“Finally, Punith Reddy will focus on making the iRonCub untethered as a short-term goal,” Pucci stated. “Gabriele Nava, our iRonCub scrum master, is working on all integration operations for the first successful iRonCub flight, which will consist of a vertical take-off and landing, at the experimental level. This latter short-term strategy is extremely difficult, but I believe we have sufficient expertise and motivation to attain this critical milestone sooner or later.”