A research team atItalian Institute of Technology has developed a robot humanoid capable of flying, with thrusters on his hands just like Iron Man. The robot has a jetpack on his back to take to the skies and, one day, prove himself helpful in various situations, including emergency response.
An (Italian) robot capable of flying
The industry has been using robots for several years. But they are mechanisms bordering on their stations on the production chain or on the laboratory. In order for robots to perform more tasks and become more and more part of our economic and non-economic life, they need to learn to work around “architectural problems”. Like a simple flight of stairs.
There have been several attempts to solve this problem, such as inserting rotors so that humanoid robots can transform into helicopters. Or in the case of Boston Dynamics to perform jump through hoops on flexible legs. But perhaps the most visionary solution comes from Italy.
The work team led by Daniele Pucci, head of the laboratory for Artificial and Mechanical Intelligence of theItalian Institute of Technology (IIT), in fact, he decided to put a jetpack on the shoulders of a robot. IronCub, the nickname of the flying robot that starts from iCub (the pedestrian version of the IIT), is designed to help during emergency situations, carrying out emergency intervention in areas that could be dangerous for paramedics and firefighters. In short, a superhero in everything, not just because he flies like Iron Man.
Robotic emergency intervention
The goal of the Pucci team is to make that one day iCub can help in the 300 natural disasters which happen every year, killing up to 90,000 people. Humanoid robots in these situations may have the advantage over other drones of exploiting their surroundings: a building, whether on fire or not, is meant for use by humans. However, the ability to fly allows you to reach places where the volunteers and the police who flock to the scene cannot arrive.
Already last year, Pucci explained to the Innovation Post: “We imagined a post-disaster scenario, like it could be a tsunami or an earthquake. A situation that presents itself with destroyed buildings, fires or floods with obstacles interposing between these buildings and there are survivors to look for. To do this safely, you need a robot that is, first of all, able to arrive on site and then to walk and move within an anthropomorphic environment.
“An environment where, perhaps, doors have to be opened, or valves closed to avoid, for example, gas leaks. And then, once a building’s inspections are finished, he must be able to continue his work in other facilities. Climbing over flames caused by fires, or floods. The idea of a flying humanoid robot, therefore, it fits very well in these cases. For us who work with iCub, which is a project born about fifteen years ago, the shortest step was to take the humanoid robot and equip it with a technology capable of making it fly “.
Pucci will publish his most recent study on the possibility of humanoid robots to fly in January. Here you can find the abstrac to deepen the question also at a scientific and engineering level.
A robot that can fly could be the way to a real Iron Man
In addition to being a robotic firefighter, IronCub can serve you to develop as well other flight systems which, until recently, were the prerogative of comics. If indeed recently Richard Browning showed the possibility of flying a jetpack with impressive precision, the road to a proper Iron Man suit is still a long way off.
“I really think that humanoid aerial robots can be a starting point for tests to build exoskeletons for humans,” Pucci explained to Engadget. “Richard Browning’s recent success story shows the engineering feasibility of these futuristic exoskeletons. However, the journey ahead of us is still a long one. And we can use humanoid robots for speed up our journey by avoiding too many human tests“.
This all-Italian project can therefore not only give humanoid robots the ability to fly. It may also have the ambition to imagine a future where flying robots and firefighters with a propelled exoskeleton they can save people’s lives during a natural disaster. Iron Man and Vision teaming up to save lives. Are we sure we haven’t joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe too?