Robot snake 'Uncle Sam' now climbs trees (w/ Video)

Robot snake 'Uncle Sam' now climbs trees (w/ Video)
Image credit: Biorobotics Laboratory

( -- Uncle Sam, Carnegie Mellon's latest robotic snake, has been taught to climb trees. The snake is the newest version of "modsnake" created by the Biorobotics Laboratory at the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

The snake’s movements are biomimetic, mimicking movements of real snakes including side-winding, wiggling and rolling. Now the snake robot can also wrap itself around a tree trunk and climb vertically up the outside of the tree. An earlier version has previously been demonstrated climbing vertically inside pipes. The many internal degrees of freedom make the snake robots extremely flexible and maneuverable.

Uncle Sam is built using modular segments containing actuators and sensors, and the head segment is fitted with a camera. Being modular allows the snake robot the potential to be self-assembled in the field, and also simplifies repair of the robot if sections are damaged. The modular nature also means the robot’s length can be adjusted easily as needed.

Biorobotics lab researchers say much work remains to be done before the snake robot can climb any tree and slither along branches, as Uncle Sam was designed for a specific trunk diameter and a specific tree. Work will also be needed on the power supply for the robot, since at the moment it must be tethered to the power supply.

Possible applications of robots include locating survivors in collapsed buildings after earthquakes or other . They could also be used for inspecting bridges, mines, and any spaces too tight for humans, and for disarming bombs. Previous versions of Carnegie Mellon’s modsnakes have already been tested in training exercises for disasters.

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Citation: Robot snake 'Uncle Sam' now climbs trees (w/ Video) (2010, September 7) retrieved 22 October 2019 from
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User comments

Sep 07, 2010
This would make an awesome rover for planet exploration!

Sep 07, 2010
Who says it's bad to name a snake robot Uncle Sam? Maybe for them it's a mark of respect. Maybe... the biorobotics technicians are Tea Partiers... "Don't tread on me!" and all that.

Sep 07, 2010
The ground based movement looked a little awkward, but the tree leg climbing looked pretty cool. Pity about the giant lead needed to supply power...

Sep 07, 2010
Is calling it Uncle Sam really an insult? I would think the bigger insult would be making one of your national symbols a pork farmer. Uncle Sam really doesn't stand for what America is, he's just a war-time symbol of the government.

Sep 12, 2010
Before y'all go jumping to conclusions about the significance of the name - bear in mind that the color scheme of the ribbon cables and hardware is red white and blue - maybe that's how far it goes.

Sep 17, 2010
@knikiy: damn straight!

Regardless of the name, this is a huge step forward, and the videos are awesome!

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