In many areas of robotics, scientists and engineers are taking inspiration from nature in their designs. Bioinspired robotics now encompasses a huge number of different research fields and applications that we’ve discussed before, from sensing to locomotion and from medical to agricultural robotics.
This month, Claire chatted to three roboticists who’ve taken a leaf out of nature’s book to develop innovative new robots: Valentina Lo Gatto (Bristol Robotics Lab), David Hardman (University of Cambridge) and Adrian Thomas (Oxford University).
Valentina Lo Gatto is a PhD student in Robotics and Autonomous Systems at the Bristol Robotics Lab, where she is part of the SoftLab and the Morphological Computation Group. The main goal of her research at BRL is to investigate the application of the concepts of Bioinspiration, Soft Robotics and Morphological Computation to space probes design, specifically probes that will need to be able to autonomously explore delicate marine environments such those hidden under the icy surfaces of some of the moons of the outer solar system (e.g., Europa, Enceladus, Ganymede).
David Hardman is a PhD student in the Bio-Inspired Robotics Lab at the University of Cambridge, where he works on the design and development of soft, flexible sensors and sensing materials. After receiving his MEng in mechanical and materials engineering from Cambridge in 2020, he began focussing on including stretchy, bendy, and compliant sensors into robotic systems, where they function as artificial skins which conform to and sense a robot’s surroundings.
Adrian Thomas is Professor of Biomechanics in the Zoology Department, Oxford University. He founded the Oxford Animal Flight Group in 1996, and led that group until 2015 when he founded his Oxford Spinout company Animal Dynamics. Animal Dynamics works on bio inspired autonomous vehicles and systems, mainly cargo delivery in air or underwater. Animal Dynamics has raised over £20 million from venture capital. Its main product is a large cargo delivery drone ‘Stork’ capable of carrying 135kg over 400km.