Flipper-driven terrestrial locomotion of a sea turtle-inspired robot

Nicole Mazouchova, Paul B. Umbanhowar, Daniel I. Goldman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


To discover principles of flipper-based terrestrial locomotion we study the mechanics of a hatchling sea turtle-inspired robot, FlipperBot (FBot), during quasi-static movement on granular media. FBot implements a symmetric gait using two servo-motor-driven front limbs with flat-plate flippers and either freely rotating or fixed wrist joints. For a range of gaits, FBot moves with a constant step length. However, for gaits with sufficiently shallow flipper penetration or sufficiently large stroke, per step displacement decreases with each successive step resulting in failure (zero forward displacement) within a few steps. For the fixed wrist, failure occurs when FBot interacts with ground disturbed during previous steps, and measurements reveal that flipper generated forces decrease as per step displacement decreases. The biologically inspired free wrist is less prone to failure, but slip-induced failure can still occur if FBot pitches forward and drives its leading edge into the substrate. In the constant step length regime, kinematic and force-based models accurately predict FBot's motion for free and fixed wrist configurations, respectively. When combined with independent force measurements, models and experiments provide insight into how disturbed ground leads to locomotory failure and help explain differences in hatchling sea turtle performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number026007
JournalBioinspiration and Biomimetics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Biotechnology


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