The Effect of Limb Kinematics on the Speed of a Legged Robot on Granular Media

C. Li, P. B. Umbanhowar, H. Komsuoglu, D. I. Goldman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Achieving effective locomotion on diverse terrestrial substrates can require subtle changes of limb kinematics. Biologically inspired legged robots (physical models of organisms) have shown impressive mobility on hard ground but suffer performance loss on unconsolidated granular materials like sand. Because comprehensive limb-ground interaction models are lacking, optimal gaits on complex yielding terrain have been determined empirically. To develop predictive models for legged devices and to provide hypotheses for biological locomotors, we systematically study the performance of SandBot, a small legged robot, on granular media as a function of gait parameters. High performance occurs only in a small region of parameter space. A previously introduced kinematic model of the robot combined with a new anisotropic granular penetration force law predicts the speed. Performance on granular media is maximized when gait parameters utilize solidification features of the granular medium and minimize limb interference.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1383-1393
Number of pages11
JournalExperimental Mechanics
Issue number9
StatePublished - Nov 2010


  • Biomechanics
  • Locomotion
  • Sand
  • Solidification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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