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University of Tokyo’s Flying SPIDAR is Opening Up the Field of Robotics

Megan Hayes | News Editor

This month, the University of Tokyo (UTokyo), a public research facility established in Tokyo, Japan in 1877 has just recently broken ground with their invention of a flying robot called the “SPIDAR”. This acronym, which albeit a little complicated stands for “Spherically Vectorable and Distributed Rotors Assisted Air-Ground Amphibious Quadruped Robot.” Essentially, this robot has four legs (quadruped, just like a dog), and has dual rotos and thrusters on each leg (somewhat like a helicopter), which allows this robot to achieve flight without jet engines or any large, complicated mechanisms. Although the SPIDAR does not numerically resemble the common 8-legged arachnid to which we have all become acquainted with, it resembles the stance of a spider with its legs, which have limbs that naturally flex inwards, allowing it to walk. What sets this robot apart from similar technology like a remote-controlled drone is that the SPIDAR can easily transform between functions – it is equally capable of both flying and walking, which gives it a large range of settings where this robot can effectively complete tasks. The creators of this robot have said that they are developing it to tackle both “terrestrial and aerial fields”, and although this creation is still in the early stages of development, it may prove to be useful in the future.

| "The world of engineering and advancements is so revolutionary and show’s its effects in our everyday life, but there is still so much room for more creators and innovators to join,"

When asked to comment on the current state of progress on SPIDAR’s technology, the UTokyo Research team stated that "Among these hybrid robots, several state-of-the-art bipedal robots enable the complex walking motion which is interlaced with flying. These robots are also desired to have the manipulation ability; however, it is difficult for the current forms to keep stability with the joint motion in mid-air due to the centralized rotor arrangement." There is a lot of work to do, but a device that can conquer both air and land is a huge advancement, as up to this date we have only seen success mostly within air OR land robots. An example of this is the popularity around Boston Dynamics, a Massachusetts-based robotics company who created a quadruped robot “Atlas” -- which can withstand harsh conditions and scale rough terrain, and how we only see personal-use drones that are available for purchase to only tackle tasks in the sky. The combination of both of these useful skills, however, in a delicate and lightweight design is stirring up ideas on what this creation can be used for. Engineering is an ever developing and rapidly advancing field, and this is shown in inventions like the Swiss ETH Zurich’s drone, which is used to study global biodiversity by collecting samples from local trees. This Switzerland public university’s technology allows for samples of trees to be cut and taken from the arms of the drone to examine leftover DNA from wildlife in that area that was left behind on bark or leaves. This allows both engineering, biological and ecological research to all group together to achieve a greater and highly impactful result, which is needed in today’s world.

Circling back to UTokyo’s SPIDAR, this invention could be very impactful for so many fields in the future, whether it leads to research, military usage, or fuels ideas for future inventions, as the preprint for this robot and the UTokyo team’s work has already been added to Cornell University’s ArXiv Catalog. The world of engineering and advancements is so revolutionary and show’s its effects in our everyday life, but there is still so much room for more creators and innovators to join this world and invent things like the SPIDAR which may very well have a chance to revolutionize technology as we know it.


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