While robotics companies like Boston Dynamics continue to crank out humanoid bots that walk shockingly well—on every surface except for sand, apparently—there are, of course, limitations to using bipedal locomotion. As a potential fix for these limitations, engineers at the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Genoa will outfit a humanoid baby-like robot with jet engines so it can fly. And maybe even help rescue people from natural disasters. Here’s more about the iCub, who may look like a creepy horror movie monster, but really, this soon-to-be flying robot wants to help.
DesignTAXI picked up on the forthcoming flying robot. This bot will stand as the new iteration of iCub. For those unfamiliar iCub is an approximately three-foot-tall humanoid robot that looks, oddly enough, like a big robot-baby. The robot, the first iteration of which was created back in 2009, is an open-source robotics platform. This means that engineers use it as a way to test perceptual systems and modes of articulation.
In this instance, engineers at IIT are aiming to develop “aerial locomotion” capabilities for the robot. Right now, it seems that engineers are in the R&D stage of development. They are researching the algorithms necessary to control a flying iCub. Additionally, scientists are creating the most fitting (literally) jet-engine pack. In the video, immediately below is a bench test for one of the potential jet engines. Note that this flying baby robot will ultimately receive a pair of jet engines on its back. (Also, note how cute the little baby engine is!)
As for use cases, IIT’s Artificial and Mechanical Intelligence lab (AMI) notes that a flying robot could help to rescue people from natural disasters. “Every year, about 300 natural disasters kill around 90,000 humans and affect 160 million people across the world,” AMI says on its site. The lab notes that particularly bad natural disasters, such as the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, can harm hundreds of thousands of people at once.
In the video below, we get a virtual glimpse of how a flying iCub robot could infiltrate a disaster zone. In the demo, we see an iCub robot flying with a jet engine pack on its back and jet-engine hands. The baby robot proceeds to fly over a body of water before landing amid a crumbled building.
It’s not exactly clear to us if the flying iCub could actually do any rescuing; especially if it has jet-engine hands. It’s also unclear what advantages this bot would have over, say, a powerful quadcopter drone. But living in a world full of flying robots certainly sounds exciting. And we love the name “iRonCub.” As long as no baby version of Skynet comes online, that is.