Boston Dynamics Sand Flea – a recon robot that can jump
Among other characteristics, fleas are well known for their jumping ability because they are able to jump up to around 200 times of their own body length, making them the 2nd best jumper in the known world. Relying on previous joint development of Precision Urban Hopper robot, engineers from Boston Dynamics came up with Sand Flea – a small wheeled robot whose jumping ability makes it useful in recon missions.
Sand Flea robot’s dimensions are 33cm x 45.7cm x 15.2cm (13”L x 18”W x 6”H), and it weights 5 kg (11 pounds). The robot moves like a traditional 4-wheeled vehicle with speed up to 5.5 km/h (3.4 mph), but it is able to jump over obstacles that are up to 8m (26 feet) high. Jump height is user selectable, and it can range from 1 to 8 meters (3.3 to 26 feet). It is powered by a rechargeable Li-polymer battery that enables 2 hours of operation.
Unlike Precision Urban Hopper robot which jumped while moving, Sand Flea robot relies on a piston actuator located on its rear end. The piston actuator is powered by a disposable CO2 fuel cartridge which provides energy for 25 hops. Controlled by Operator control unit (OCU) with live video feed for remote operation, the robot can make precision jumps because it has a controllable launch angle and laser-based ranging that eases the targeting before launch.
On-board cameras are backed up with adjustable 6W visible and 6W infrared for recon in the dark, and they provide 320×240 pixels resolution for stream of video in its driving mode, and 1280×960 pixels resolution for still images it takes.
Sand Flea robot uses gyro stabilization to stay level during flight, to provide a clear view from the onboard camera, and to ensure a smooth landing. Specially designed wheels cushion the shock of landing. Since the wheels are larger than its main body, robot’s movement is invertible when it lands on its other side. Flight and landing attitude of the robot are automatically controlled by an onboard stability system.
Boston Dynamics Sand Flea robot is water resistant, and it is capable to operate in harsh conditions with high humidity, salt, oil and sand extremes. It is able to operate in temperatures ranging from -15°C to 45°C (5°F to 113°F), which could present a problem since US military plans to test nine of these robots in Afghanistan where temperature rises up to 49°C (120°F) during summer.