This robot with jet-powered feet is proof that we’re living in the future

In order for bipedal robots to live up to their potential usefulness, it’s important that they can navigate on a variety of different surfaces and deal with whatever potential obstacle is thrown their way. That’s something that researchers from China’s Guangdong University of Technology’s School of Automation have been working on with a new self-balancing robot called Jet-HR1.

Thanks to jet-powered feet, Jet-HR1 is able to step over extremely large chasms equivalent to around 97 percent of its leg length. In order to do this, the robot essentially performs the splits, by balancing on one leg while reaching the other one out to bridge the gap, before repeating the process to move the other leg across as well.

“The development of the electric motor and jet technologies contributed to the feasibility of the idea,” Zhifeng Huang, an associate professor at Guangdong University of Technology, told Digital Trends. “High thrust-to-weight ratio is one of the key points. In this research, we [worked] hard on the action planning, including the optimal posture and the thrust planning. In addition, the mechanical design was also important. To maintain the robot’s balance during the step over the gap, it is important to calculate the movement of the center of mass (CoM) and then carefully plan the thrust.”

robots with jet powered feet robot chasms
Guangdong University of Technology
Guangdong University of Technology

The need for jet engines on the feet comes down to the essential problem to be solved with this robot. When you take a long exaggerated step over a chasm, you shift your center of gravity to accommodate the movement. In the case of Jet-HR1, this is achieved by using ducted-fan jet engines on each foot, which can output a thrust equivalent to almost one-third the robot’s weight. Huang suggested that robots like this could one day play a valuable role in search-and-rescue applications, such as in the aftermath of natural disasters.

“Currently, we will not consider any plan to commercialize the robot,” he said. “Our focus and interest are about how to improve the robot. As you can see in the demo, we just successfully took one step. For the robot, it was a large step, [but] for the project, it is still small. We are highly confident that it is a novel and correct direction, [although] … there still many problems need to be solved, such as the mechanism design, stability of posture, and so on.”

As a possible next step (no pun intended), Huang said that the team is interested in expanding movement to cover more dynamic explosive actions, such as jumping.

Emerging Tech

How 3D printing has changed the world of prosthetic limbs forever

When he was 13 years old, Christophe Debard had his leg amputated. Here in 2019, Debard's Print My Leg startup helps others to create 3D-printed prostheses. Welcome to a growing revolution!
Smart Home

Grocery shopping wreaks greater havoc on the environment than meal kits

A study by the University of Michigan showed meal kits cause less environmental damage than meals from grocery store ingredients. According to the U-M researchers, grocery store meals produced more greenhouse gas emissions than meal kits.
Emerging Tech

Burgers are just the beginning: Embracing the future of lab-grown everything

You’ve almost certainly heard of the 'farm to fork' movement, but what about 'lab to table'? Welcome to the fast-evolving world of lab-grown meat. Is this the future of food as we know it?
Emerging Tech

NASA is building an inflatable space robot named King Louie

NASA is funding an inflatable robot called King Louie which could travel to the stars in deflated form and then be blown up when and where required. Here is why that's so exciting.
Emerging Tech

Beresheet crash caused by manual command, but reflector device may have survived

Details are emerging about what may have gone wrong with spacecraft Beresheet's failed moon landing. A manual command was entered which led to a chain reaction. But NASA still hopes to salvage use of its Laser Retroreflector Array device.
Emerging Tech

The oldest type of molecule in the universe has been located at last

A milestone in the development of the early universe was the combination of helium and hydrogen atoms into a molecule called helium hydride. But strangely enough, this ancient molecule has never been detected in space before now.
Emerging Tech

The grid of the future will be powered by … giant subterranean bagpipes?

In order to transition to a more renewable-focused energy system, we need to scale up our grid storage capacity --- and our existing methods aren't going to cut it. Could compressed air be the key?
Emerging Tech

Mercury’s wobble as it spins reveals that it has an inner solid core

Scientists have long wondered what the inside of Mercury looks like, and they now have strong evidence that the planet has a large and solid metallic core. The data for the new findings was collected by the now-defunct MESSENGER mission.
Emerging Tech

Gravitational forces at heart of Milky Way shaped this star cluster like a comet

Hubble has captured the stunning Messier 62 cluster. The cluster is warped, with a long tail which stretches out to form a shape like a comet. It is thought this distortion is due to Messier 62's proximity to the center of the galaxy.
Emerging Tech

Troubleshooting Earth

It’s no secret that humans are killing the planet. Some say it’s actually so bad that we’re hurtling toward a sixth major extinction event -- one which we ourselves are causing. But can technology help us undo the damage we’ve…
Emerging Tech

Inside the Ocean Cleanup’s ambitious plan to rid the ocean of plastic waste

In 2013, Boyan Slat crowdfunded $2.2 million to fund the Ocean Cleanup, a nonprofit organization that builds big, floating trash collectors and sets them out to sea, where they’re designed to autonomously gobble up garbage.
Emerging Tech

Climeworks wants to clean the atmosphere with a fleet of truck-sized vacuums

Using machines that resemble jet engines, Climeworks wants to fight climate change by extracting CO2 from thin air. The gas can then be sold to carbonated drink and agriculture companies, or sequestered underground.
Emerging Tech

Geoengineering is risky and unproven, but soon it might be necessary

Geoengineering is a field dedicated to purposely changing the world's climate using technology. Call it 'playing god' if you must; here's why its proponents believe it absolutely must happen.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Earth Day, indoor container farming, robot submarines

Today on Digital Trends Live, we discuss how technology intersects with Earth Day, a new Tim Cook biography, indoor container farming, robot spy submarines, A.I. death metal, and more.