A Biologically Inspired Jumping and Rolling Robot

  • Rhodri Armour

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Mobile robots for rough terrain are of interest to researchers as their range of possible uses is large, including exploration activities for inhospitable areas on Earth and on other planets and bodies in the solar system, searching in disaster sites for survivors, and performing surveillance for military applications. Nature generally achieves land movement by walking using legs, but additional modes such as climbing, jumping and rolling are all produced from legs as well. Robotics tends not to use this integrated approach and adds additional mechanisms to achieve additional movements. The spherical device described within this thesis, called Jollbot, integrated a rolling motion for faster movement over smoother terrain, with a jumping movement for rougher environments. Jollbot was developed over three prototypes. The first achieved pause-and-leap style jumps by slowly storing strain energy within the metal elements of a spherical structure using an internal mechanism to deform the sphere. A jump was produced when this stored energy was rapidly released. The second prototype achieved greater jump heights using a similar structure, and added direction control to each jump by moving its centre of gravity around the polar axis of the sphere. The final prototype successfully combined rolling (at a speed of 0.7 m/s, up 4° slopes, and over 44 mm obstacles) and jumping (0.5 m cleared height), both with direction control, using a 0.6 m spherical spring steel structure. Rolling was achieved by moving the centre of gravity outside of the sphere’s contact area with the ground. Jumping was achieved by deflecting the sphere in a similar method to the first and second prototypes, but through a larger percentage deflection. An evaluation of existing rough terrain robots is made possible through the development of a five-step scoring system that produces a single numerical performance score. The system is used to evaluate the performance of Jollbot.
Date of Award1 May 2010
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorAdrian Bowyer (Supervisor)


  • biomimetic
  • Jumping
  • rolling
  • multimodal
  • robot
  • exploration

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