In June 2009, Kodlab members took a Research RHex robot to the Mojave Desert, for the purpose of evaluating the performance of legged robots in adverse, mountainous, desert terrain.
The robot received a significant overhaul in preparation for the trip, outfitting it with sensors and electronics to collect important locomotion data, as well as designing and installing a robust shell to endure the difficult environment. A white shell made from both polycarbonate and carbon fiber greatly helped in protecting the RHex robot from the harsh desert environment during tests.
In March 2010, the robot returned to the desert, this time with automated tuning algorithms that allowed it to learn efficient gaits for sandy and rocky terrain. A video of the robot in action follows:
Autonomous Legged Hill and Stairwell Ascent
Aaron M. Johnson, Matthew T. Hale, G. C. Haynes, and D. E. Koditschek
IEEE International Symposium on Safety, Security, and Rescue Robotics, November 2011. Full PDF
On the Comparative Analysis of Locomotory Systems with Vertical Travel
G. C. Haynes and D. E. Koditschek
International Symposium on Experimental Robotics, December 2010. Full PDF
See Legged Locomotion for Desert Research for more on our desert research.