A new concept from NASA called as Shape-shifter could lead to creation of mini-robots that can perform multiple functions like rolling, flying, swimming. These robots can give earth observers better viewing access to distant objects like the moon Titan, close to the Saturn. These unbelievable objects are now been tested by engineers at a robotics yard located in NASA’s JP Lab located in California. NASA has described these prototypes as a machine which appears like a drone which has been put within an extra -long hamster wheel. But that is acceptable as the robot has no intention of looing special.
The point which needs to be made here is that the mechanism can be split into two parts so that they look like half wheels. Each section has a separate drone that has a propeller fixed to it. In the end JPL has a vision for them in which the robots work as a team of twelve members and do something substantial instead of just flying and rolling around. The long term vision of Shape shifter is to have multiple autonomous robots that can assemble by themselves into large groups. These robots or cobots can either move independently or as a constellation depending on the mission they are deployed.
They can swim, fly or roll along the surface in a sphere like shape and can be used to explore caves that cannot be entered by humans. Shape shifter is one among several of NASA’s projects and is being carried out under its Innovative Adv. Concepts prog. This involves testing of outlandish ideas that can be used for space exploration within a few years/decades. According to Ali Agha of JPL these robots can be used for exploration of Saturn’s moon Titan and other destinations within solar system. This is because Titan’s environment is close to earth as underneath its thick orange cloud the moon has a liquid cycle comprising of methane and ethane.
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